Obit of the Day (Historical): Mr. Rogers (2003)
February 27, 2013 marks the tenth anniversary of the passing of a children’s television icon: Fred Rogers. Better known to generations of children and parents as Mr. Rogers, his PBS show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was on the air for thirty-four seasons.
Mr. Rogers, who graduated from Rollins College (FL)*, had plans to become a minister but instead found himself in television in New York. In 1954 he returned home to Pennsylvania and began working on children’s programming. His first show was titled The Children’s Corner where he not only hosted but developed his puppets including “Daniel” and “King Friday XIII.”
After hosting several shows for kids including the Canadian show, Misterogers, he returned to Pittsburgh (WQED) and on February 19, 1968 the first half-hour episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood premiered. The show would end, after 486 episodes, on August 31, 2001. Over that time Mr. Rogers would talk to “Trolley,” lead viewers on visits to “The Land of Make-Believe,” welcome various visitors to his home including “Mr. McFeely”^ (“Speedy delivery!”) and Chef Crockett, all while teaching important lessons on myriad topics including fear, real versus make believe, and the arts.
Mr. Rogers, who opened every show singing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” while changing into his zippered sweater and sneakers, would consider his show as a ministry for children. (He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1964.)
Fun note: Many of his sweaters were knitted by his mother. One hangs in the Smithsonian Institution.
He would earn four daytime Emmys over his career. In 1997 he received a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. President George W. Bush awarded Mr. Rogers the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002. On November 5, 2009 the city of Pittsburgh honored him, unveiling a statue of Mr. Rogers which is officially called “A Tribute to Children.” He was 74 years old when he died.
Sources: NY Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (also check out their full coverage from 2003), PBSKids.org, and Wikipedia
(Image of Mr. Rogers and “Trolley” is courtesy of campus-to-career.com)
* Mr. Rogers attended Dartmouth College for one year and then transferred to Rollins.
^ Mr. Rogers’ middle name was McFeely.
Here are Obit of the Day’s posts on other childhood icons:
And an added bonus: PBS Digital Studios’ fantastic “Remix”