Hugh Martin Downs (born February 14, 1921) is an American newsman and television presenter. He was the original host of Concentration, from August 1958 to January 1969. He is best known for his news work, mainly 20/20 and the Today Show, which he co-hosted with Barbara Walters.
Hugh Downs was born on St. Valentine's Day in the year 1921 in Akron, Ohio to Milton Howard and Edith H. Downs. He was educated at Lima Shawnee High School in Lima, Ohio; Bluffton College, a Mennonite school in Bluffton, Ohio; and Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, during the period 1938 to 1941. He worked as a radio announcer and program director at WLOK in Lima, Ohio, after his first year of college. In 1940 he moved on to WWJ in Detroit. Downs served briefly in the U.S. Army in 1943 and then joined the NBC radio network at WMAQ as an announcer in Chicago, where he lived until 1954. He married a coworker, Ruth Shaheen in 1944. He also attended Columbia University in New York City during 1955–56.
Downs made his first television news broadcast in September 1945 from the still experimental studio of WBKB-TV (now WBBM-TV), a station then owned by the Balaban and Katz theater subsidiary of Paramount Pictures. He became a TV regular, announcing for Hawkins Falls in 1950, the first successful television soap opera, which was sponsored by Lever Brothers Surf detergent. He also announced the Burr Tillstrom children's show Kukla, Fran and Ollie from the NBC studios at Chicago's Merchandise Mart after the network picked up the program from WBKB. In March 1954, Downs moved to New York to accept a position as announcer for Pat Weaver's The Home Show starring Arlene Francis. That program lasted until August 1957. He was the announcer for Sid Caesar's Caesar's Hour for the 1956–57 season, and one of NBC Radio's Monitor "Communicators" from 1955-1959. Downs became a bona fide television "personality" as Jack Paar's announcer on The Tonight Show from July 1957 until Paar's departure in March 1962, and then continued to announce for "The Tonight Show" until the fall of 1962, when Ed Herlihy took the announcing reins. Herlihy held that post until October 1st, 1962 when Johnny Carson took over the show, and brought Ed McMahon as his announcer. On August 25, 1958, he concurrently began a more than ten-year run hosting the original version of the game show Concentration. Also, he hosted NBC's Today Show for nine years from September 1962 to October 1971; plus, he co-hosted the syndicated television program Not for Women Only with Barbara Walters in 1975 and 1976.
Downs appeared as a panelist on To Tell the Truth.
Downs earned a postgraduate degree in gerontology from Hunter College while he was hosting Over Easy, a PBS television program about aging that aired from 1977 to 1983.
He was probably best known as the Emmy Award-winning co-anchor (again paired with Walters) of the ABC news TV show 20/20, a primetime news magazine program, from the show's second episode in 1978 until his retirement in 1999. His closing tagline, "We're in touch, so you be in touch," was written by Brock Brower.
In 1985, he was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as holding the record for the greatest number of hours on network commercial television (15,188 hours), though he lost the record for most hours on all forms of television to Regis Philbin in 2004.
A published composer himself, Downs hosted the PBS showcase for classical music, Live from Lincoln Center from 1990 to 1996. Downs made a cameo appearance on Family Guy in addition to other TV shows.
Downs can currently be seen in infomercials for Bottom Line Publications, including their World's Greatest Treasury of Health Secrets, as well as another one for a personal coach. He did an infomercial for Where There's a Will There's an A in 2003. His infomercial work since then has aroused some controversy, with many arguing the products are scams. As of the summer of 2008, Downs can also be seen in regional public service announcements in Arizona, where he currently lives, for that state's Motor Vehicles Division, as well as in many public, short-form programs in which he serves as host of educational interstitials.
On October 13, 2007, Downs was of the first inductees into the American TV Game Show Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, Nevada.