Dave Garroway

Curator's note: Dave Garroway (seen on the left in studio D ca. 1948) was one of Chicago's greatest broadcasting geniuses---though his greatest fame came as the first host of NBC's Manhattan-based "Today" show. The obituary below (from the New York Times of July 22, 1982) tells you a bit about his remarkable life and his tragic death. And don't forget to download video from the "Best of Garroway at Large" page.

Dave Garroway, 69, Found Dead' First Host of 'Today' on NBC-TV

Dave Garroway, the amiable, low-key television personality who was the first host of "Today" on NBC-TV, was found dead of a gunshot wound yesterday at his home in the Philadelphia suburb of Swarthmore. He was 69 years old.

A spokesman for the Delaware County Medical Examiner said that Mr. Garroway had been shot once in the head and that the wound appeared to have been self-inflicted.

His body was discovered at 9:30 A.M. by a housekeeper. Mr. Garroway's wife was apparently the last person to have seen him alive when she left the house at 8:45.

Mr. Garroway's son Michael said his father "had been suffering from postoperative complications following open-heart surgery." "We were extremely surprised at the turn of events. We believe he unfortunately succumbed to the traumatic effects of his illness."

"Dave Garroway was a broadcast pioneer," Reuven Frank, president of NBC news, said. "As the first host of "Today," he made an immesurable contribution toward the success of what was considered a brash experiment when "Today" premiered in 1952."

Appeared Last Jan. 14

As recently as Jan. 14, Mr. Garroway appeared on "Today" with other personalities from the program to mark its 30th anniversary. Those who worked with him found his spirits to be good.

"He set a tone for the whole broadcast that day," Steve Friedman, executive producer of "Today" said. "We built it around him. Some people were concerned whether he could carry it off but he did."

Mr. Garroway left "Today" in 1961, shortly after his second wife, the former Pamela Wilde, committed suicide. "Things were never quite the same after her suicide," Barbara Walters, who was hired by Mr. Garroway to be a writer on "Today", said. "He was depressed at that time, and the hours of the show got to him."

After his departure, Mr. Garroway tried his hand at a succession of television and radio jobs, but none of them brought the fame he found at "Today". He produced a program for public television called "Exploring the Universe," on astronomy, one of his hobbies. He appeared briefly as the host of "Nightlife", a talk show on ABC, and his last network job was in 1971, a variety series on CBS called "The Newcomers."

Born in Schnectady

Mr. Garroway was born David Cunningham Garroway on July 13, 1913, in Schenectady, N.Y. He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 1935 and after attending NBC's school for announcers in New York, became a disk jockey in 1939 for radio station WMAQ in Chicago.

He first earned acclaim for his understated way of speaking as host of the variety show, "Garroway at Large," from which he was recruited for "Today." In addition to his work on "Today." he also was host of an NBC nightime series, "The Dave Garroway Show," and later "Wide Wide World." a Sunday afternoon series that featured stories from around the globe.

On "Today," Mr. Garroway, who wore horn-rimmed glasses and bow ties, was officially called a "communicator," and his former colleagues say the term was especially apt.

"I have never seen anyone in this business who could communicate the way he could," Miss Walters said. "He could look at the camera and make you feel that he was talking only with you."

His style was relaxed and ironic. In a review of "Today" in the New York Times in 1960, Richard F. Shepard wrote:

"He does not crash into the home with the false jollity and thunderous witticisms of a backslapper. He is pleasant, serious, scholarly looking and not obtrusively convivial." Mr. Garroway's trademark on the show was signing off by saying, "Peace," and extending the palm of his hand.

In recent years, he had lived a secluded life in retirement. After attending the 30th anniversary of "Today," he wrote to Mr. Friedman. "Let me thank you for inviting me," the letter said, "for the deft way the staff handled my wife and myself, for the splendid red 'Today' sweater, the key chain and lots more. I really do thank you for a great morning. Now let's talk about 1987."

"Obviously," Mr. Friedman said, "he figured he would be here on Jan. 14, 1987. Now the founding father of morning television is gone."

Surviving are Mr. Garroway's wife, the former Sarah Lippincott, who is an astronomer; another son, David Jr., and a daughter, Paris Newrock.

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