by HB Auld, Jr.
“America’s Weatherman,” Willard Scott, died Saturday, September 4, 2021, of natural causes. He was 87 years old. Throughout his career, he was known as more than a TV weather presenter; he was an extraordinary entertainer.
Willard was born March 7, 1934, in Alexandria, VA. He was graduated from George Washington High School. He worked as an NBC page in 1950 and attended American University where he met his lifelong friend and fellow student, Ed Walker. They worked together at WAMU-AM radio. Willard graduated from American University and earned a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and religion.
Willard Scott began his entertainment career in Washington, DC, in 1955 as a member of the “Joy Boys Radio Show on radio station WRC. He and his partner, Ed Walker who was blind and took notes for the show in Braille, broadcast their show of comedy bits there until 1972 when they moved across town to WWDC radio. The Joy Boys radio program was briefly interrupted for two years from 1956 to 1958 when Willard served in the US Navy. Ed Walker, the lifelong friend of Willard Scott’s, died in October, 2015. Willard claimed he and Ed were, “closer than most brothers.”
In the 1960s, Willard appeared as Bozo the Clown on sister station WRC-TV. In 1970, he began broadcasting the weather there. His special brand of humor while presenting the weather was to serve him as a lifelong career there and later on NBC’s “The Today Show.” In 1971, Willard briefly starred on TV commercials as the first Ronald McDonald. He left there due to other commitments at the time.
Willard began broadcasting the weather on “The Today Show” in 1980. In 1983, he began his long-time habit of wishing centenarians a happy 100th birthday. Later, that segment was sponsored by Smuckers jellies and he became their spokesman.
I had the great pleasure to meet Willard Scott in 1985 while I was stationed in Italy. “The Today Show” crew traveled to Rome, Italy, to broadcast their morning show live. I was the Station Manager at the time at Southern European Broadcasting (SEB) Service in Naples, Italy. “The Today Show” producers contacted us to ask for our help in getting a tape of the show as soon as possible after broadcast. The show, hosted by Bryant Gumbel and Jane Pauley, originated live from the Spanish Steps in Rome, while Willard did his weather segment from a crowded little Italian Pizzaria down the street. I negotiated an interview with Jane Pauley with our Director of TV, Navy Journalist Sue Christy, after they were off the air and a spot on one of Willard’s live weather segments with one of the teenagers from Naples whose mom had made Willard a hand-made pizza bib. The teen presented the bib to him live on the air. The Armed Forces Radio and Television Service in Washington agreed to allow us to provide a full tape of the show to the Executive Producers who needed it. We recorded the show live in the Naples AFRTS station and then immediately drove it up to Rome for the EPs. Willard Scott was an amazing, personable, friendly segment host. He made the young teenaged girl who gave him the bib feel that she brought him the most important gift he had ever received in his life. He was just that giving and personable to those who came in contact with him.
Willard was succeeded as “The Today Show” weatherman by Al Roker in 1996. He cut his appearances back to two days a week, which he broadcast from a television station in Florida where he continued his birthday wishes.
Willard fully retired from broadcasting on December 15, 2015. He was honored by NBC and several of his previous co-workers there, along with Barbara Bush. The plaza in front of the studio was renamed Willard Scott Way.
Willard was married to Mary Dwyer Scott from 1959 until her death in 2002. The couple had two daughters, Mary and Sally. On April 1, 2014, at age 80, Scott married Paris Keena. They first met in 1977 while she was working at WRC-TV. They became a couple in 2003. Willard and Paris lived on Sanibel Island, FL, until his death on Saturday.