Willard Scott – the legendary TODAY weatherman known for his exuberant personality and a tradition of celebrating fans who have hit the mark of the century – passed away this week, TODAY’s Al Roker has confirmed. He was 87 years old.
Scott, who joined TODAY in 1980, was perhaps best known for wishing a happy birthday to fans turning 100, a feature that has grown in popularity over the years.
Scott, who began his 65-year career at NBC in 1950 as a page at the Washington, DC affiliate station, made predictions on the go and delighted locals with his tireless charm.
“I just love people,” he told the New York Times in 1987. “Many speakers in the discussion group leave immediately afterwards. I do a lot of shmoozing. I am like a dog. You just open the door and I say, ‘rrrr, rrrr’ and then I’ll lick everyone’s face. ”
Born in Alexandria, Virginia on March 7, 1934, Scott began broadcasting in the 1950s after graduating from American University in Washington.
In 1955 he began hosting the radio show “Joy Boys” on NBC radio station WRC and remained on the program until the end of the program in 1974.
He also hosted children’s television shows in the 1960s and appeared on WRC with a variety of characters, including Bozo the Clown, a bygone child icon who appeared across the country in the 60s and 70s.
Scott also had the honor of being the first person to play Ronald McDonald, appearing in commercials in the Washington area from 1963.
Scott stayed in Washington during the 1970s, becoming the weather man for NBC’s local Channel 4. In March 1980 the network called and he replaced Bob Ryan as the weather man on TODAY. (Ryan then took Scott’s old job and became a WRC meteorologist.)
No gimmick was too much for Scott. In 1985 he made the weather disguised as Boy George while the singer was at the height of his fame. He also disguised himself as a giant cupid on Valentine’s Day, in a barrel on the day tax was due, and as a groundhog to celebrate Groundhog Day.
Perhaps his most memorable stunt, however, was dressing up as Brazilian singer and actress Carmen Miranda on an episode of TODAY in 1983 to secure a $ 1,000 donation to the USO. He took a little flak for it, but stuck with it.
“People said I was a fool to do it,” he told the New York Times in that 1987 interview. “Well, I’ve been a fool all my life. This is what I did. ”
In 1983, Scott granted a viewer to wish his mother a happy 100th birthday.
He dressed up as Santa Claus at the National Tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington, DC, and at several White House events for several years during the 1980s. From 1987 to 1997 he co-hosted NBC coverage of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and also enjoyed a recurring role as sociable Mr. Poole on the sitcom “The Hogan Family.”
The lovable Scott was also once approached by First Lady Barbara Bush during the inauguration parade of her husband, President George HW Bush, in 1989.
“All of a sudden I look over and see this very happy face, run over, kiss that face, run back to (husband) George,” she recalls. “He said, ‘I didn’t know you knew Willard Scott.’ I said, ‘I don’t know Willard Scott. I just love that face.’ “
“I think people are so drawn to Willard that they really just want to be part of his orbit, and that includes first ladies,” said Katie Couric, former host of TODAY, of the encounter.
In 1996 Scott semi-retired and was replaced by Al Roker on TODAY, although he would stand in for Al for the next 10 years. He officially retired from television in 2015, finishing a 35-year run with TODAY.
“He’s a friend. He’s literally my second father,” Al said at the time.
Scott reappeared in a video on TODAY in August 2019 in which the cast and crew of the show wished Al a happy 65th birthday.
“I can’t believe it. My little guy is 65 years old,” he said. “What is the world for? Hey, listen, now you can get social security on and make even more money. What a lucky guy you are. You are nothing but the best. Who loves you baby
In 1985 President Reagan presented Scott with a Private Sector Award for Public Service. He was married to his wife, Mary Dwyer Scott, from 1959 until her death in 2002. They had two children. He leaves behind his wife Paris Keena, whom he married in 2014.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.