- Category : Entertain-Music-Composer/Arranger
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Contagion 1
American TV personality, a broadcaster from 1943 at a small radio station in Lima, Ohio, near a farm where he grew up. As a child, he wanted to become an artist, then discovered at age 13 that he was 90 % color-blind.
Young Hugh picked up his interest in broadcasting from his dad, who worked at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. After graduating from high school, he won a public-speaking contest and a one-year scholarship to Blufton College in Lima. It was the time of the Great Depression and he quit school after a year. In July 1939, at 18, he passed the local radio station and on impulse, went in and asked for a job as an announcer. He got it. Four years later, he joined NBC in Chicago as a staff announcer.
He hosted "Concentration" during the 50s, co-hosted the "Tonight Show" with Jack Paar from 1957-1962, and for ten years, beginning in 1962, was host of the "Today" show.
He was called in to anchor the news show, "20/20" a week after the show's disastrous debut in June 1978. He was at the time still hosting a PBS series on aging, "Over Easy." When he started "20/20," he continued to host that show, commuting each week from New York to San Francisco, where the PBS series was produced. He recalls the time as "living in a 747 for about 18 months."
Downs is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the only person who has appeared on network commercial television more than 10,000 hours.
He married Ruth Shaheen in 1944, and they have two children. His mother died in 1958, and his father in 1982.
Much of his image is described as modest and low-key, which is in contrast to a strong sense of adventure, especially when it comes to airplanes. He has pilot ratings for single and multi-engine aircraft, seaplanes, gliders and even hot-air balloons, which he calls "a mad sport." He has done barrel rolls in a DeHavilland Tiger Moth biplane, and once spent a summer with Richard Bach, author of "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" and a former jet fighter. They made a documentary together about modern barnstorming, "Nothing by Chance", based on Bach's book of that name.
On land, in 1971, he was once clocked doing 175 miles per hour behind the wheel of a Formula A racing car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He has also hiked to the South Pole, saving a friend's life during the experience.
Downs is even more attracted to the water, blaming it on growing up in the landlocked Midwest where "water holds a mystical fascination." He has scuba-dived along Australia's Great Barrier Reef, has dived in search of the lost Spanish galleon San Ignacie off Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, and has ridden a killer whale bareback at Sea World. He once crossed the Pacific in a trawler, which inspired his book, "A Shoal of Stars."
Downs explained his attraction to danger by saying that as a child he was full of fear, and timid. He admits to mike and camera fright in his early radio and television days and sums it all up by saying that the only way to handle fear is to scare yourself.
His myriad of other interests include music composition; he has written a prelude that was actually performed by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. He has a particularly strong interest in the subject of aging, and has authored three books on the subject. He holds a post-master's degree in gerontology from Hunter College and a certificate in geriatric medicine from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
His memoirs are titled, "On Camera." In mid-May 1999, he announced that he was leaving network TV and his long-running post on ABC's "20/20" to explore teaching, new media and cable opportunities.