Sad news this morning as an old friend prepares to say good-bye. 81-year-old Willard Scott has announced his planes to retire from Today. After 35 years on the air, the weatherman is leaving the morning news show. His final appearance will be this Tuesday.
Willard Scott joined Today way back in 1980. He was brought in to replace Bob Ryan as the weatherman. He semi-retired in 1996, with Al Roker taking on most of the heavy lifting. Roker describes Scott as his 'second dad'. And even sent out a tweet to celebrate the retirement.
An American television personality and occasional actor, Willard Scott is also an accomplished author. And interestingly enough, he is credited as the creator of Ronald McDonald for the McDonald Corporation, and was the first to portray the fast food mascot in TV commercials. He began his career in broadcasting at just 16 years old, serving as an NBC page at WRC-AM, NBC's owned-and-operated radio station in Washington, D.C.
The weatherman got his first big break in show business as the co-host of the Joy Boys radio show from 1955 to 1972, though he did take a break between those years to serve active duty in the U.S. Navy. The show was quite popular at that time in the Washington area. He spent those years also working as the host of local children's TV programs. And he played characters such as Commander Retro and Bozo the Clown. In 1970, Scott began appearing on WRC-TV as a weekday weatherman.
While on Today, Willard Scott began his practice of wishing centenarians a happy birthday on-air in 1983, which became his iconic signature. He was also known for taking his weather reports on the road, interviewing locals at community festivals and landmarks. During his tenure on the morning show, he was required to wear a hairpiece, which he happily did while in the studio in New York. But as soon as he was outside, it came off, creating a weird dichotomy for viewers.
When Willard Scott let Al Roker take over in 1996, the weatherman served as his substitute. But that mostly came to an end when The Weather Channell was acquired by NBC. Instead, Willard Scott has been appearing on Today twice a week, to continue wishing centenarians a happy birthday. It isn't known if Al Roker will continue tis tradition into the future.