Willard Scott

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Willard Scott
Willard Scott 1997.jpg
Scott in 1995
Willard Herman Scott Jr.

(1934-03-07)March 7, 1934
DiedSeptember 4, 2021(2021-09-04) (aged 87)
EducationAmerican University
  • Weather presenter
  • author
  • television personality
  • actor
  • clown
  • comedian
  • narrator
  • radio personality
Years active1950–2015
Notable work
  • Weather Reporter on Today
  • Creator and original portrayer of Ronald McDonald
  • Joy Boys Radio Program
  • Birthday greetings for centenarians
  • Narrator of NASA TV programs
Mary Dwyer Scott
(m. 1959; died 2002)

Paris Keena
(m. 2014)

Willard Herman Scott Jr. (March 7, 1934 – September 4, 2021) was an American weather presenter, radio and TV personality, actor, narrator, clown, comedian, and author, with a career spanning 65 years. He is best known for his television work on the Today show as weather reporter who also presented a tribute greetings segment for people celebrating their 100th or above birthdays as well as select marriage anniversaries. He was the creator and original portrayer of Ronald McDonald.[1]

Early years[edit]

Scott was born in Alexandria, Virginia, to parents Willard Herman Scott and Thelma Phillips[2] on March 7, 1934, and attended George Washington High School. He showed an interest in broadcasting as a 16-year-old, working in 1950 as an NBC page at WRC (AM), NBC's owned-and-operated radio station in Washington, D.C.[3] Scott then attended American University, where he worked alongside fellow student Ed Walker at WAMU-AM, the university's radio station (1951–1953). Scott became a member of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity while at American University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy and religion in 1955.[3] He also served in the United States Navy from 1956 to 1958 and was a seaman.[4][5]


Joy Boys radio show[edit]

From 1955 to 1972, Scott teamed with Ed Walker as co-host of the nightly Joy Boys radio program on NBC-owned WRC radio (this was interrupted from 1956 to 1958 when Scott served on active duty with the Navy). Scott routinely sketched a list of characters and a few lead lines setting up a situation, which Walker would commit to memory or make notes on with his Braille typewriter (Walker was blind since birth). In a 1999 article recalling the Joy Boys at the height of their popularity in the mid-1960s, The Washington Post said they "dominated Washington, providing entertainment, companionship, and community to a city on the verge of powerful change".[6] The Joy Boys show played on WRC until 1972 when they moved to cross-town station WWDC for another two years. Scott wrote in his book, The Joy of Living, of their close professional and personal bond which continued until Walker's death in October 2015, saying that they are "closer than most brothers".[1]

Washington, D.C., TV roles[edit]

Scott spent the 1960s balancing his radio career with jobs as the host of children's television programs. He appeared on WRC Radio's sister station, WRC-TV, playing characters such as Commander Retro and Bozo the Clown.[7] In 1970, Scott began appearing on WRC-TV as a weekday weatherman.[8]

Ronald McDonald character[edit]

Willard Scott as Ronald McDonald

Another TV role he performed regularly from 1963 to 1966 and occasionally as late as 1971 was Ronald McDonald for the McDonald's franchise in Washington, D.C. Scott wrote in his book The Joy of Living that he originally created the Ronald McDonald character at the local franchise's request, which had also sponsored the Bozo the Clown show on which he portrayed Bozo.[1]

In his book Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser claims that McDonald's replaced Scott on account of his weight, supposedly concerned about McDonald's image.[9] Scott denied the claims and cited other commitments he had at the time.

Brian Thompson, of "Whatever Happened to Pizza at McDonald's" fame, is campaigning to have a statue of Scott as Ronald McDonald erected to replace a downed Confederate monument.


Scott worked as the narrator for NASA's weekly program called "The Space Story", with his contributions spanning from the Apollo Program to the Space Shuttle.[10][11][12][13]

The Today Show[edit]

Scott near his home in The Plains, Virginia in 1989

Scott was tapped by NBC in 1980 to become its weatherman for The Today Show, replacing Bob Ryan, who replaced him at WRC-TV until 2010. After being inspired by a viewer request, Scott began his practice of wishing centenarians a happy birthday on-air in 1983.[14]

During the 1980s, Scott routinely did weather reports on the road, interviewing locals at community festivals and landmarks. He also periodically performed on the program from Washington, D.C., which he still considered his home.[citation needed]

In 1989, The Today Show co-host Bryant Gumbel wrote an internal memo critical of the show's personalities, a memo that was later leaked to the media. In the memo, Gumbel said Scott "holds the show hostage to his assortment of whims, wishes, birthdays and bad taste…This guy is killing us and no one's even trying to rein him in."[15] This garnered enough of a backlash that the next time they appeared on camera together Scott kissed Gumbel on the cheek to show he'd forgiven him, and also later said he hoped the whole thing would go away.[16]

In 1992, Scott, who was the first incarnation of Ronald McDonald, recorded a commercial for McDonald's arch-rival Burger King. He also was the spokesman for the Days Inn hotel chain, appearing in their commercials from 1993 until 1997.[17]

Scott went into semi-retirement in early 1996 and was succeeded by Al Roker. He continued to appear two days a week on the morning program to wish centenarians a happy birthday (a tradition that continues to the present day). He appeared from the studio lot of WBBH, the NBC affiliate in Fort Myers, Florida. He was also the commercial voice of Smucker's jellies, which sponsored his birthday tributes on Today.[citation needed] Scott also continued to substitute for Roker for over a decade afterward, an arrangement that mostly ended after NBC acquired The Weather Channel in 2008 and started using that channel's meteorologists as substitutes (Entertainment Studios would later acquire The Weather Channel from NBC Universal in 2018, three years after Scott retired from television completely).[18]

Scott announced his full retirement from television on December 11, 2015. Today held a tribute to Scott on his final day (December 15, 2015) featuring taped highlights from his years with the show. The plaza outside Rockefeller Center was renamed Willard Scott Way in his honor. Several former Today staff came to bid farewell to Scott including Tom Brokaw, Jane Pauley, Katie Couric, and Gene Shalit along with Barbara Bush.[19]

Other TV work[edit]

Scott at the 1990 Emmy Awards

Scott made occasional guest appearances as neighbor "Mr. Poole" on The Hogan Family, where his character was married to Mrs. Poole, played by Edie McClurg. From 1959 to 1962 Scott portrayed Bozo the Clown in the children's television program on NBC Washington, D.C. affiliate WRC-TV. Scott also hosted the NBC telecast of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from 1987 to 1997. He was replaced by Matt Lauer in 1998.[20]

For several years in the 1980s, Scott donned a Santa Claus costume for the broadcast of the National Tree-Lighting Ceremony in Washington, D.C.[21]

In 1990 and 1992, Scott also hosted the Pillsbury Bake-Off on CBS (although under contract with CBS' rival NBC).



Association Award Year
President Award Private sector award for Public Service 1985
Virginian Association of Broadcasters Distinguished Virginian 1990
Washingtonian" magazine Washingtonian of the Year 1979
National Society of Fund Raisers Humanitarian in Residence 1985
National 4-H United States Department of Agriculture National Partner in 4-H citations 1984
Johnson & Wales University Honorary Doctorate ?

Radio Reissues and Santa Claus[edit]

In 2001, American University reissued some of the old Joy Boys radio broadcasts of the 1960s on CDs. He also played Santa Claus at various White House events.[22]


Scott published several fiction and non-fiction books:

External video
video icon Booknotes interview with Scott on The Older the Fiddle, the Better the Tune, July 13, 2003, C-SPAN
  • The Joy of Living[3]
  • Down Home Stories[3]
  • Willard Scott’s All-American Cookbook[3]
  • America Is My Neighborhood[3]
  • The Older the Fiddle, the Better the Tune[23]
  • If I Knew It Was Going to Be This Much Fun, I Would Have Become a Grandparent First[24]

He has also co-authored two books with Bill Crider:

  • Murder Under Blue Skies[3]
  • Murder in the Mist[3]

He preached a sermon at the 185th anniversary of his home church, First Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, that was published in Best Sermons 2, edited by James W. Cox [Harper & Row, 1989].[25]

Personal life[edit]

Scott was married to Mary Dwyer Scott from 1959 until her death in 2002. The couple had two children, Mary and Sally.[26] On April 1, 2014, at age 80, Scott married Paris Keena, whom he first met in 1977 while she was working at WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. They had been together as a couple since 2003.[27] They lived on Sanibel Island, Florida.[28]


Scott died of natural causes on September 4, 2021, at the age of 87.[29]


As himself[edit]

As actor[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Willard Scott, The Joy of Living. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1982 (ISBN 0-698-11130-3).
  2. ^ Fox, Margalit (September 4, 2021). "Willard Scott, TV's Clown Prince of Sun and Showers, Is Dead at 87". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Willard Scott – Weather Reporter and Centenarian". MSNBC. December 10, 2004. Archived from the original on December 11, 2004. Retrieved February 4, 2008.
  4. ^ Beloved television personality Willard Scott dies at 87 Spectrum News NY1. Retrieved November 28, 2021.
  5. ^ Willard Scott, Longtime ‘Today’ Show Weatherman, Dies at 87 Variety. Retrieved November 28, 2021.
  6. ^ Marc Fisher, "Washington Comes of Age", The Washington Post, September 13, 1999
  7. ^ Listed References on Wikipedia's "Bozo the Clown" Discussion Page
  8. ^ "Willard Scott Retired and Why You Should Care". Weekly View Jan 7, 2016. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
  9. ^ Schlosser, Eric (2012). Fast food nation: The dark side of the all-American meal (1st Mariner Books ed.). Boston: Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 41. ISBN 9780547750330. Scott came up with the name Ronald McDonald, and a star was born. Two years later, the McDonald's Corporation introduced Ronald McDonald to the rest of the United States through a major ad campaign. But Willard Scott no longer played the part. He was deemed too overweight; McDonald's wanted someone thinner to sell its burgers, shakes, and fries.
  10. ^ "Space for Women (Extended Version)" – via www.youtube.com.
  11. ^ "NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) 19700009829: Technical/Scientific Meeting on Space Battery Specifications, 1st session Transcript of proceedings". October 1, 1969 – via Internet Archive.
  12. ^ "NASA Special Report 218/The Space Story 998-1001". December 5, 1982 – via Internet Archive.
  13. ^ List of NASA Special Reports, Willard Scott credited as announcer/narrator for NASA programs spanning September 1970 – May 1982
  14. ^ Weisholtz, Drew. "Willard Scott, legendary TODAY show weatherman, dies at 87". cnbc.com. CNBC, LLC. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
  15. ^ Monica Collins "Memo to NBC: We Love Scott" USA Today, March 1, 1989.
  16. ^ Brian Donlon "On Today, it's kiss and make up" USA Today, March 14, 1989.
  17. ^ Kreps, Daniel. "Willard Scott, Longtime 'Today' Weatherman, Dead at 87". yahoo.com. Verizon Media. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  18. ^ Littleton, Cynthia. "Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios Acquires Weather Channel". variety.com. Variety Media, LLC. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  19. ^ Kim, Eun Kyung (December 15, 2015). "Willard Scott retires: Anchors say farewell to 'heart and soul' of Today". Today.com. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  20. ^ "Willard Scott, weather reporter and centenarian birthday greeter". TODAY.com. June 4, 2013. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  21. ^ "1981–1988 National Christmas Trees – President's Park (White House) (U.S. National Park Service)". Nps.gov. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  22. ^ "1981–1988 National Christmas Trees". National Park Service : President's Park, White House. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  23. ^ "Willard Scott, iconic weatherman for 'Today,' dies". UPI. September 4, 2021. Retrieved September 5, 2021. Scott signs copies of his new book 'The Older the Fiddle the Better the Tune'
  24. ^ "Scott, Willard H., Jr.". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
  25. ^ "People in Print". Christianity Today. Retrieved November 26, 2018.
  26. ^ "At 80, Willard Scott marries girlfriend".
  27. ^ Miller, Kyle Michael (April 2, 2014). "Willard Scott got married! 'Today' legend weds longtime love". Today. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
  28. ^ Cox, Billy Cox (April 22, 2019). "From moon shots to assassination, Russ Ward was there". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  29. ^ Weisholtz, Drew. "Willard Scott, legendary TODAY weatherman, dies at 87". Today.com. NBC Universal. Retrieved September 4, 2021.
  30. ^ Jubinville, Mike. "Legendary Today Show Weatherman Willard Scott Dead at 87". daytimeconfidential.com. Confidential Media, Inc. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  31. ^ "Walt Disney World 4th of July Spectacular (1988 TV Special)". imdb.com. IMDb, Inc. Retrieved September 11, 2021.
  32. ^ "The New Hollywood Squares Episode dated 11 November 1987". imdb.com. IMDb, Inc. November 11, 1987. Retrieved September 11, 2021.

External links[edit]