Willard Scott, the legendary “Today” weatherman known for his enthusiasm and exuberant personality, died Saturday. He was 87.
Scott’s death was confirmed on Twitter by his longtime colleague, Al Roker.
“We lost Willard Scott passed peacefully at 87 surrounded by family, including his daughters Sally and Mary and his lovely wife, Paris,” Roker tweeted. “He was truly my second dad and am where I am today because of his generous spirit. Willard was truly a broadcast icon.”
Scott joined “Today” in 1980. In addition to his duties reporting the weather, he was also noted for his birthday wishes to people turning 100 years old, Today reported. The feature rose in popularity through the years, with the images of people turning 100 appearing on Smucker’s jelly jars while Scott announced his best wishes nationwide.
Scott worked 65 years for NBC, beginning as a page at the network’s affiliate in Washington, D.C., in 1950. On “Today,” it was common to see Scott on the road doing his forecasts.
Scott retired from NBC in 2015, Variety reported.
‘’I just love people,’’ Scott told The New York Times in 1987. ‘’A lot of speakers on the talk circuit leave right afterward. I do a lot of schmoozing. I’m like a dog. You just open the door and I go, ‘rrrr, rrrr,’ and then I lick everybody’s face.’’
That famously included a kiss from first lady Barbara Bush, during the inaugural parade for President George H.W. Bush in 1989.
“How about that? I’ve been kissed by the best,” Scott said during the live segment on Jan. 20, 1989. “I got kissed off by the President, but I got kissed by the first lady.”
“Suddenly I look over and see this very happy face, race over and give that face a kiss [and] race back to George,” Barbara Bush recalled in the segment on “Today” that aired in December 2015. “He said ‘I didn’t know you knew Willard Scott.’ I said, ‘I don’t know Willard Scott. I just love that face.’”
Willard Heman Scott was born March 7, 1934, in Alexandria, Virginia, and he graduated from American University in Washington, D.C., “Today” reported.
In 1955, he began hosting the “Joy Boys” radio show on the NBC radio affiliate WRC and was a mainstay on the show until it ended in 1974.
In the 1960s, he also hosted children’s TV shows and appeared on WRC playing a wide range of characters, including Bozo the Clown, “Today” reported. He also was the first person to play Ronald McDonald, appearing as the fast-food restaurant’s clown in commercials in the D.C. area beginning in 1963.
Scott was a substitute weatherman on WRC-TV in Washington in 1967 when the regular walked off the job. He left the station for “Today” in 1980, where he became an immediate hit, The Washington Post reported. He once dressed up as the flamboyant Carmen Miranda, the Brazilian entertainer known for her fruit-covered hats and garish dresses. On Groundhog Day he appeared as Punxsutawney Phil.
Scott once delivered the forecast dressed as Boy George, The New York Times reported. Another time, Scott reported from an outdoor event and kissed a pig on camera, much to the animal’s dismay, according to the newspaper.
In a 1989 memo, “Today” anchor Bryant Gumbel criticized Scott for holding “the show hostage to his assortment of whims, wishes, birthdays and bad taste,” the Post reported.
“This guy is killing us and no one’s even trying to rein him in,” Gumbel wrote in the memo, which was leaked to media outlets.
Despite criticism, even from colleagues, Scott remained unapologetic about his antics.
“People said I was a buffoon to do it,” Scott told the Times. “Well, all my life I’ve been a buffoon. That’s my act.”
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