Known by his television personality name Mister Rogers, Fred Rogers spent his lifetime helping children and families grow up emotionally. Wearing his trademark sweaters (actually knitted by his own mom) and sneakers, his slow and steady voice has become recognizable to generations of viewers. Born in Latrobe, PA, he was often sick as a boy and spent a lot of time by himself until he was 11, when his sister was born. He moved away from home to attend Rollins College in Florida, where he studied music composition. Immediately upon graduating, he was hired by NBC for several entry-level positions. In 1952, he married concert pianist Joanne Byrd, and they later had two children. The couple moved back to Pittsburgh when Rogers got a job developing the program schedule at WQED, the first public television station in the U.S. He worked as a producer, puppeteer, composer, and organist for The Children's Corner, hosted by Josie Carey. It was here that he first got the ideas for the characters King Friday XIII, Daniel Striped Tiger, and Lady Elaine Fairchild. During this time, he also attended the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Child Development. In 1963 he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister and encouraged to continue making quality children's television. After making his first attempt at hosting his own show for the CBC, he created Mister Rogers' Neighborhood for PBS in 1968. He was not only the host, but the composer, voice actor, and lyricist as well. It became the longest-running show on public television, ending with his retirement in 2001 after almost 900 episodes. He also wrote many children's books, released several albums, and founded the nonprofit company Family Communications, Inc. Throughout his career, he has been presented with numerous awards and honorary degrees, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. After a short struggle with stomach cancer, Fred Rogers died in Pittsburgh, PA, on February 27, 2003.
Biography by Andrea LeVasseur
- Ordained as a Presbyterian minister.
- All of the sweaters he wore on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood were knitted by his mother, until her death in 1981.
- Testified before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communications in 1969 to defend funding for public broadcasting.
- In 1971, formed the nonprofit company Family Communications Inc., which produced Mister Rogers' Neighborhood; the name was later changed to the Fred Rogers Company.
- Composed more than 200 songs.
- Won four Daytime Emmys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.
- Inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999.
- Received more than 40 honorary degrees from colleges and universities.
- Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.
- Last public appearance was as grand marshal of the 2003 Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, Cal.