the first person of color/Creole to co-host Today, a
popular talk show on NBC.
Until he left the show in 1997. Gumbel consistently
demonstrated a hard driving style that produced among viewers mixed reaction to
the articulate and well-read journalist. He has now become a major news star with
second child of Dunbar Gumbel and Rhea Alice LeCesne Gumbel, Bryant Charles Gumbel
was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on September 29, 1948. He has two younger sisters, Rhonda and Renee, and an older brother, Greg, who
is now well-known sports telecaster.
The Gumbels relocated to Chicago when Bryant
and Greg were infants. There Richard Gumbel, the son of a New Orleans Gambler,
who had graduated from New Orleans's Xavier University and worked his way through
Georgetown Law School, became Cook County Probate judge during Mayor Richard Dailey's
political reign. Both parents were active in Democratic Party politics in Chicago.
Bryant Gumbel grew up in the Hyde Park section in Chicago, a middle-class neighborhood
near the University of Chicago, his father remained a central influence in his
life and stressed the importance of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. He also introduced his sons to sports, particularly baseball and the art of catching.
Gumbel attended Roman Catholic elementary and high schools in Chicago, then in
1966 entered Bates College of Lewiston, Maine, where he played baseball and football.
The long-haired young man stood out as one of three blacks in a student body of
nine hundred. Although he was not as serious in his studies as he could have been
and became a C student, he developed a sense of self-confidence that he has never
lost. He decided also that he would devote his time to studies and not become
and activist in civil rights movement of that era. After graduating in 1970 with
a B.A. in history, a sports-related injury in college prevented him from being
drafted for military service.
It was Gumbel's flair for television journalism
and ability to develop appealing stories on a variety of topics that made him
attractive. In 1975, after he gave an off-the-cuff commentary on John Wooden,
then basketball coach for the University of California, Los Angeles, he was tapped
as co-host of the National Football League's Pregame show Grandstand, televised
from New York.
Continuing with KNBC in Los Angeles, he kept the New York assignment
from 1976 to 1980, commuting on weekends to work for NBC sports as anchor for
NFL football, major league baseball, and NCAA basketball. His
assignments with NBC Sports expanded beginning in 1976 to include three Super
Bowls, one World Series, five Thanksgiving Day Parades, and several golf tournaments.
the Today show-Today's anchor Tom Brokaw left to anchor NBC Nightly News and in
August 1981 Gumbel was asked to sit in as co-host on the Today show with Jane
Pauley. On January 4, 1982, the Today show was reconstituted; along with the regular
members-Jane Pauley, Gene Shalit, and Willard Scott-were newcomers Gumbel and
news anchor Chris Wallace. Gumbel, the show's first creole co-host, was well-read,
performed well, and became a young master of live television interviewing.
doubted whether Gumbel, who had very little television news experience, could
follow in the footsteps of such journalist style made him an asset to NBC and
the show. After three years of zigzag ratings for first place in morning television
viewing with rivals CBS Morning News and Good Morning America, in March 1985 Today
was in first place. That fall Gumbel also hosted a late-afternoon NBC News program
each month, and on April 1 of that year he broadcast the show from a private mass
at the Vatican. The full cast gathered for an audience with the Pope.
resigned from Today show Only one day short of fifteen years as anchor, Gumbel
left the Today show on January 3, 1997, with its highest ratings dominating ABC
rival Good Morning America. On hand during his tearful departure, in addition
to his NBC colleagues, were poet Maya Angelou, boxing great Muhammad Ali, and
the artist formerly known as Prince. Gumbel was succeeded by Matt Lauer, who had
joined the team in January 1994 as news anchor. Gumbel's legacy has been called
relentless preparation for his work.
After his retirement, he played golf, sorted
through his offers, then on Thursday, March 13, 1997, Gumbel and CBS news announced
Gumbel's new position. Three television networks bided for his service, and Gumbel
accepted an offer from CBS to be a major news star with a weekly magazine, prime-time
interview specials, and the opportunity to own and develop syndicated programs
with the CBS syndication, Eyemark.
Gumbel has been
widely recognized for his work. In 1976 he won an Emmy Award for an Olympic sports
special, another Emmy in 1977, the Los Angeles Press Club's Golden trip to Moscow
in 1988, Gumbel won the Overseas Press Club's Edward R. Murrow Award for outstanding
foreign affairs work.
Twice the Washington Journalism Review's Annual Reader's
Poll named him best morning television news interviewer, 1986 and 1987, and the
Associated Press voted him a co-writer as broadcaster of the year. Gumbel received
international awards from the NAACP.
He received the Martin Luther King Award
from the Congress of Racial Equality and the college Fund/UNCF. For more the seven
years he has raised over three million dollars for UNCF scholarship through the
Bryant Gumbel/Walt Disney World golf tournament. He is active in other philanthropies
and has served onthe board for United Way and Xavier University.