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TODAY is 70! Celebrate with memories and messages from the show’s past

On Jan. 14, 1952, a television institution was born. See how how the whole TODAY family, including anchors from the present and the past, helped celebrate a milestone anniversary.

On Jan. 14, 1952, anchor Dave Garroway appeared on black-and-white television sets around the country to humbly introduce the first episode of a new morning show.

"Good morning," he said. "The very first good morning of what I hope or suspect will be a great many good mornings between you and I."

Little did Garroway know that would mean more than 25,000 "good mornings" over seven decades on a show that has become a fixture of American television news for generations.

TODAY celebrated its 70th anniversary on Friday with a look back over the years, messages from its iconic former anchors and expressions of gratitude from the family that welcomes you to our neck of the woods every day.

The celebration began Thursday night by gathering at the Empire State Building in New York City to watch the skyscraper light up in TODAY's trademark orange to mark the milestone.

"You realize 70 is such a big number," co-anchor Hoda Kotb said on TODAY Friday. "We’re each a tiny little piece of that 70 years."

Image: TODAY
Anchor Dave Garroway, reporter Mary Kelly and host and announcer Jack Lescoulie during the first episode of TODAY on Jan. 14, 1952.NBC

"The TODAY show is a national treasure," co-anchor Savannah Guthrie added.

The show was groundbreaking from the start as the first news program to start the day covering everything from politics to pop culture.

That was only the beginning of pushing boundaries, as legendary interviewer Barbara Walters became the first woman to be a co-host on an American news program in 1974 when she ascended to that spot on TODAY.

She began a lineage that included longtime TODAY anchors Jane Pauley, Katie Couric, and Meredith Vieira, who inspired the current TODAY family back when they were viewers.

"When I saw Katie, a little dream was born," Savannah said.

Hoda and Savannah made history in 2018 when they became the first women to co-anchor the broadcast together.

"The Barbara Walters, the Jane Pauleys, the Katies, the Merediths, they blew the doors open, and then me and Savannah just strolled through like ‘Hey thanks,'" Hoda said.

Hoda and Savannah weren't the only ones inspired by their predecessors. Bryant Gumbel paved the way as the show's first Black anchor when he began a 15-year stint in 1982. Gumbel's example showed a young Craig Melvin it was possible for him to attain that job one day.

"When I was growing up, there were not a lot of people who looked like me on network television — and then there was Bryant Gumbel," Craig said Friday. "(I thought), 'Maybe I could do that.'"

TODAY's legendary weatherman, Al Roker, also took his inspiration from his iconic predecessor, Willard Scott, who became his mentor.

Barbara Walters made history on TODAY in 1974 as the first female co-host on an American news program.
Barbara Walters made history on TODAY in 1974 as the first female co-host on an American news program.TODAY

The show also came up with innovations like the first outdoor set at Rockefeller Plaza and the addition of live outdoor concerts featuring music's biggest names.

Over the years, TODAY has brought the news of seismic events from the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. to 20 presidential inaugurations to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 into the homes of millions.

"I could not have been prouder to have been part of this show," Al said about the coverage of Sept. 11 on a day of chaos in New York City.

I think Dave Garroway and everyone that started this little project in black and white would be astonished, and I hope they’d be proud.

— Savannah guthrie

Many other stories have had personal resonance with the anchors, like Hoda interviewing the survivors of the 2015 mass shooting of a church in South Carolina, or Carson Daly sharing his diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder.

"To give me the platform to do that, with its reach, that’s really powerful," Carson said on Friday.

An integral part of the show has always been the TODAY fans, who cheered on the 70th anniversary on Friday. The show has been around for so long that some of the fans who line Rockefeller Plaza during the show are the grandchildren of those who were in the audience in the early days of TODAY.

"The audience is the beating heart of this show," Savannah said.

"It’s people who feel like family," Hoda said.

Image: Image:
Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel inspired the current generation of TODAY anchors and hosts. "When I saw Katie, a little dream was born," Savannah Guthrie said. NBC

In celebration of its big birthday, TODAY relived the laughs, the legendary musical performances, the appearances by Hollywood's biggest stars, and the travel to exotic places that have made the show so special for decades.

"I think what the TODAY show does is it makes the world smaller, and it also makes us all feel closer," Hoda said.

That close bond with the audience reflects the bond between the TODAY family.

"There’s a deep affection for all of us when the cameras aren’t rolling, and I think the chemistry that happens on air is undeniable," Carson said.

"During the pandemic we were physically apart, but I don’t think we felt emotionally apart," Savannah said. "In fact I think we felt really close. When we got to hug each other, we’ll never take that for granted again."

The show has grown over the years from two hours to four, from five days a week to seven, from just television sets to a website, social media channels, podcasts, SiriusXM radio and a 24-hour streaming channel, TODAY AllDay.

"I think the secret sauce, why the show has lasted 70 years, is it’s good company," Hoda said.

Muhammad Ali tangles with Tom Brokaw on TODAY in 1980.
Muhammad Ali tangles with Tom Brokaw on TODAY in 1980.TODAY

It's a long way from Garroway in black-and-white, but the mission to get everyone's day started with a smile and the news they need to know remains the same.

"I think Dave Garroway and everyone that started this little project in black and white would be astonished and amazed, and I hope they’d be proud," Savannah said.