Willard Scott with Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley

Willard Scott flanked by Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley/image courtesy of NBC/The Today Show

Willard Scott to Retire from NBC

| published December 13, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff

His may be arguably the longest-running career with one network on television. And after 35 years with the same show, he may have broken at least two all-time records.

Willard Scott has said he will retire from NBC and The Today Show after 35 years as part of NBC’s morning programming, and after a full 60 years as an employee of NBC. Scott, now 81, first joined NBC as a page and an usher in 1950 when he was only 16 years old. Aside from a few brief interruptions in the late 1950s, when he served in the U.S. Navy, Scott has been employed by NBC ever since.

Among his most notable roles: host of several children’s television shows, weatherman for NBC affiliate stations, and performing as several characters for NBC programs, including Bozo the Clown. Scott was also notably the first Ronald McDonald, the iconic clown-spokesperson for the fast food giant McDonalds.

Scott first took on the full time role as a weatherman in 1970 for NBC-owned WRC-TV. Scott joined the Today Show team in 1980. Among his trademark elements: on-air wishes of Happy Birthday to people who had reach their 100th birthday, and frequent weather reports from somewhere on the road, often in small towns or at local festivals and events. Scott was also a regular host of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, serving in that role from 1987 until 1997, and on occasions in the 1980s served as master of ceremonies at special events and climbed into th costume of Santa Claus for tree-lighting ceremonies in Washington and New York.

In a bit of strange TV trivia, the fine print of Scott’s contractual obligations during the 1980s and early 1990s forced him to adapt to a hair piece to conceal his balding head when he appeared on TV programs in the studio, but no such clause existed for his frequent out-of-doors appearances, where he refused to wear the hairpiece. This meant that on any given day or during any particular week, Scott may with a full head of hair 8:00 a.m. only to appear hours later or the next day with his head mostly bald.

Scott was considered semi-retired in 1996 when he moved aside to let Al Roker take over as full-time weatherman for the Today Show, but Scott remained the first-choice fill-in guy, substituting for Roker for another 12 years or more.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Letterman Signs Off After 33 Years; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; May 21, 2015.

Tom Brokaw Weighs-In on Brian Williams; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; April 15, 2015.