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Willard Scott Biography

A brief snapshot of ‘Today’ forecaster Willard Scott

By

Willard Scott, the Today Show's lovable retired weather forecaster, helped create Ronald McDonald.
Michael Loccisano / Staff / Getty Images

The Today Show's lovable weathercaster, Willard Scott, was born on March 7, 1934, in Alexandria, Va., and was raised in nearby Rosemont. Broadcasting was in his blood from an early age. He joined WRC-AM when he was 16 years old. But instead of broadcasting, Scott studied philosophy and religion at American University.

After college, Scott co-hosted a popular radio program, the "Joy Boys," from 1955 to 1972. At the same time, he acted in a series of children's shows, most notably as the local, D.C. version of Bozo the Clown.

He also helped create another famous clown: Ronald McDonald. In his book, "The Joy of Living," he writes: "At the time, Bozo was the hottest children's show on the air. ... There was something about the combination of hamburgers and Bozo that was irresistible to kids. That's why when Bozo went off the air a few years later, the local McDonald's people asked me to come up with a new character to take Bozo's place. So, I sat down and created Ronald McDonald." Scott starred in three commercials as the mascot.

Scott began his weather forecasting career in the early 1970s. He replaced Today weatherman Bob Ryan in 1980. Soon, he would add his trademark birthday wishes for viewers turning 100 years old, along with a cadre of bad puns, light hearted humor and general frivolity. That frivolity was enough to irk co-host Bryant Gumbel, who wrote in a interoffice memo that Scott was holding "the show hostage to his assortment of whims, wishes, birthdays and bad taste." Gumbel would later apologize on air when the memo was leaked to the press.

Scott retired in the late 1990s, turning over the weather duties to Al Roker. He still makes regular appearances on the show, though, wishing 100-year-olds happy birthday.

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