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Hugh Downs, former TODAY anchor and legendary newsman, dead at 99

Downs was a giant on the small screen with his low-key approach that endured for decades.
/ Source: TODAY

Veteran TV journalist and former TODAY anchor Hugh Downs died Wednesday at the age of 99 in his Scottsdale, Arizona, home, his great-niece has confirmed.

Downs had not been on television since 1999, but he was a mainstay on the small screen before then, anchoring TODAY as well as ABC’s “20/20” during his career.

Barbara Walters, Joe Garagiola, Hugh Downs, Frank Blair in 1970 NBC

Downs, who also hosted the game show “Concentration” in the 1950s and ‘60s, was part of “The Tonight Show” when it launched in 1957 with Jack Paar, serving as the announcer and guest host. He would move on to TODAY, which he anchored from 1962-1971.

He was with the show when it shifted from black and white to color. "It made television more real and it was better for the viewer, but it didn’t change much the way we did things,” he once said in an interview.

Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters covering the first presidential inauguration of Richard Nixon on Jan. 20, 1969NBC

While with TODAY, he would also work with a producer who would later sit beside him on “20/20”: Barbara Walters. He joined "20/20" in 1978 and she would become his co-anchor on it in 1984.

Downs would host the ABC newsmagazine for two decades until his retirement in 1999.

He was such a frequent presence on TV that he owned the record for most hours on air before Regis Philbin toppled his mark in 2004, according to the Washington Post.

In a 2012 interview, Downs shared how he’d like to be remembered.

“I would like it if people remembered me as being fair and enjoying what I did and being honest with the audience,” he said at the time.