Willard Scott, Longtime ‘Today’ Weatherman, Dies at 87
In more than three decades with “Today,” Mr. Scott traversed the country, delivering the weather on location at county fairs, town parades and quaint byways across America, as well as from NBC’s studios in New York.
A frequent guest on late-night TV, he was a spokesman for a range of charitable causes and a commercial pitchman with wide television exposure — too wide, some critics maintained.
The concerns he endorsed included Howard Johnson Motor Lodges, True Value Hardware, Burger King, Lipton tea, Maxwell House coffee, the American Dairy Association, the Florida Citrus Commission, Diet Coke, USA Today and many others.
“A huckster for all seasons,” The New York Times called him in 1987.
Mr. Scott’s onscreen persona — by his own account little different from his offscreen persona — divided viewers. Some adored him, inundating him with gifts, which he might display on the air. (Among them, the 1987 article in The Times reported, was “an airplane built out of Diet Coke cans.”)
In January 1989, the country’s new first lady, Barbara Bush, broke ranks from the inaugural parade for her husband, George H.W. Bush, to dart over to Mr. Scott, broadcasting from the sidelines, and plant an impromptu kiss on his cheek.
“I don’t know Willard Scott,” Mrs. Bush explained afterward. “I just love that face.”
Then again, as The Boston Globe reported in 1975, there was this incident, from Mr. Scott’s days at WRC: “He was pushing a shopping cart in a Virginia supermarket recently when a little old lady charged by and smacked him with her umbrella. ‘I can’t stand you,’ she said.”