Willard Scott, the legendary weatherman who was a mainstay on NBC’s Today Show in the 1980s, has died. He was 87.
Scott’s close friend and protégé Al Roker confirmed his death on Saturday, writing in a touching tribute: ‘We lost a beloved member of our [Today Show] family this morning.’
‘Willard Scott passed peacefully at the age of 87 surrounded by family, including his daughters Sally and Mary and his lovely wife, Paris,’ Roker wrote.
‘He was truly my second dad and am where I am today because of his generous spirit. Willard was a man of his times, the ultimate broadcaster. There will never be anyone quite like him,’ added Roker.
Willard Scott, the legendary weatherman who was a mainstay on NBC’s Today Show in the 1980s, has died. He was 87
Al Roker confirmed Willard Scott’s death on Saturday, paying tribute to his ‘second dad’
Scott spent 16 years as the top weatherman on Today, before partially retiring in 1996, when Roker took over. The two weathermen, who were close friends, are seen above
Former Today hosts Jane Pauley, left, Katie Couric, and veteran weatherman Willard Scott arrive for a group photo in New York’s Rockefeller Center in 2012
Katie Couric, the longtime anchor of Today, is pictured embracing Willard Scott
Scott spent 16 years as the top weatherman on Today, before partially retiring in 1996, when Roker took over.
He was known for his zany on-air antics, effusive personality, and insistence on wishing his viewers a happy birthday on national television when they turned 100.
Scott, who started out as an NBC page in 1950, had a lengthy career in broadcasting, and famously created the iconic McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald.
Scott was also the first to portray the fast-food clown in a television commercial.
Colleagues from Today and other journalists offered tributes to the beloved weatherman on Twitter.
Katie Couric, the longtime former anchor for Today from 1991 to 2006, shared a touching photo of herself with Scott.
‘I am heartbroken that the much loved Willard Scott has passed away. He played such an outsized role in my life & was as warm & loving & generous off camera as he was on,’ Couric tweeted.
‘Willard, you didn’t make it to the front of the Smucker’s jar, but you changed so many lives for the better.’
Maria Shriver, who has served as a substitute host on Today, said on Twitter that she was ‘honored’ to have worked with Scott.
‘Willard Scott was a legend and I was so honored to work with him. He was always a gentleman, always kind, always funny and unbelievable at his job. Sending love to his family that he loved so much,’ Shriver tweeted.
Tom Brokaw is seen with Willard Scott in an undated photo. Scott started out as an NBC page at the Washington DC affiliate in 1950
Scott is seen with fellow NBC hosts from the 1980s: Film critic Gene Shalit (left), co-host Deborah Norville and co-host Bryant Gumbel (seated front)
Andrea Mitchell, the chief Washington correspondent for NBC News, called her longtime friend a ‘ray of sunshine.’
‘My longtime friend in the DC bureau, a ray of sunshine no matter what the weather or how grim the news. Beloved by fans and colleagues alike: Willard Scott, legendary TODAY weatherman, dies at 87,’ Mitchell wrote.
CNN anchor Jim Acosta called reports of Scott’s death ‘sad news.’
‘Willard Scott, the long-time TODAY show weatherman known for his outgoing, jovial personality, and celebrating the lives of viewers who had reached their milestone 100th birthdays has died, according to the show,’ Acosta wrote.
Journalists for Today and other outlets have mourned Scott’s death in tributes posted to Twitter
The late weatherman was also remembered by climate and atmospheric scientists
Fans of the weatherman remembered Scott by posting some of their favorite clips from his time in television.
In one clip from November 19, 1985, Scott delivered the weather dressed as the English singer Boy George with his signature hat.
In another from 1989, Scott appeared in an episode of The Jim Henson Hour in which he taught Fozzie the art of meteorology.
In 1983, people called Scott a ‘buffoon’ for dressing up as Brazilian singer and actress Carmen Miranda to garner a $1,000 donation to the USO, he told The New York Times.
‘All my life I’ve been a buffoon. That’s my act,’ he said.
Willard Scott, who created the character of Ronald McDonald, is seen as the character in a TV commercial, left. He is pictured right performing a Carmen Miranda impersonation on Today in exchange for a $1,000 donation to the USO
Weatherman Willard Scott, left, makes his singing debut on the television show “Hee Haw” with country star Roy Clark during taping of the show in Nashville
Even meteorologists and climate scientists like Michael Lowry, a strategic planner for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), mourned the loss of the weatherman.
‘A tremendous loss of a broadcasting original. I still can’t see a jar of Smuckers and not think of Willard Scott. What a wonderful tribute for a wonderful man,’ Lowry tweeted.
Scott was born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1934 where he attended George Washington High School. He attended American University, working for the school’s radio station, and graduated with a degree in philosophy and religion.
The future weatherman co-hosted a nightly program with radio personality Ed Walker called Joy Boys from 1955 to 1974, though the show was interrupted from 1956 to 1958 – when Scott served on active duty with the U.S. Navy.
He also played the character Bozo the Clown for a children’s show that was broadcast on WRC-TV. McDonald’s reached out to him and asked him to develop a clown character for its advertising because of his success in the role.
In 1967, Scott started serving as a weatherman for WRC-TV until he was tapped by NBC to join Today to replace Bob Ryan – the show’s first on-air meteorologist, who held a master’s degree in atmospheric science.
Willard Scott and his wife Paris Keenan and attend a salute to fellow broadcaster Brit Hume at Cafe Milano on January 8, 2009 in Washington, DC
Scott has been credited with boosting Today to popularity with segments wishing happy birthdays on air to centenarians, whose faces were featured on Smucker’s jelly jars, and hitting the road to interview people at events and community festivals.
The weatherman himself admitted that his success was not because of his aptitude for meteorology, noting to The New York Times that a monkey in a cap could give a weather report on TV.
‘Give him a banana and he’ll probably do it better than me,’ Scott said.
Scott, who co-anchored NBC’s reports on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from 1987 to 1997, shared three Daytime Emmys for the parade coverage.
First Lady Barbara Bush also once ran up to him to give him a kiss during the 1989 inauguration parade for her husband, President George H.W. Bush.
Barbara Bush later recounted the kiss in an interview with NBC.
‘Suddenly, I look over and see this very happy face, race over, give that face a kiss, race back to George,’ she said.
‘He said, “I didn’t know you knew Willard Scott.” I said, “I don’t know Willard Scott. I just love that face”.’