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Longtime broadcaster Hugh Downs dies at age 99 in Scottsdale home

Downs' career spanned more than 60 years, leading shows like 20/20, The Today Show and announcing for Tonight Starring Jack Paar.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Longtime broadcaster Hugh Downs died peacefully in his Scottsdale home at the age of 99 Wednesday, according to a spokesperson for the family.

Downs's career spanned more than 60 years, leading shows like 20/20, The Today Show and announcing for Tonight Starring Jack Paar.

Downs was a Emmy-award winning broadcaster, author and host. He is described by family as a "founding voice in modern American media."

He is perhaps best known for his time hosting NBC’s Today Show from 1962-1971. Downs pushed for Barbara Walters being promoted from writer to on-air after a several years, and subsequently anchoring the ABC News magazine 20/20, again joined by Barbara Walters, from 1978-99. Downs hosted the program from the show's second episode in 1978 until his retirement in 1999. 

In 1985, he set the Guinness Book of World Records record for the greatest number of hours on network commercial television at 15,188 hours. He lost the record to Regis Philbin in 2004.

Downs also has a school named after him: The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University.

His family includes his wife, Ruth, children Deirdre and Hugh Raymond (H.R.), grandchildren Leah Downs and Cameron Black and four great grandchildren.

"And yet, amid all of Hugh's exceptional life achievements, was his love for his family. Hugh Downs and Ruth Shaheen, who were married when Hugh was 23, spent nearly 75 years together as a vision of love, partnership and creativity," a statement from the family said. 

His family said his death was not related to coronavirus. 

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