Fred Rogers was a beloved American educator, author, songwriter, television host, and Presbyterian minister who had a net worth equal to $3 million at the time of his death in 2003. At the end of his career, Fred earned an annual salary of $139,000 as the Chief Executive of Family Communications, the production company that produced his famous show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which ran from 1968 to 2001 and aired 895 episodes over 31 seasons. The character of Mister Rogers debuted on the Canadian television show “Misterogers” in 1961, and after Fred gained the rights to the series in 1967, he returned home to Pennsylvania and created “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” for American television. The program was produced until Rogers retired in August 2001 and is still shown widely in syndication. Besides his work on television, Fred also published several books, including “The Matter of the Mittens” (1973), “Everyone is Special” (1975), “Mister Rogers Talks to Parents” (1983), “No One Can Ever Take Your Place” (1988), and “Dear Mister Rogers” (1996).
Early Life: Fred Rogers was born Fred McFeely Rogers on March 20, 1928, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania (outside of Pittsburgh). His father, James, was president of the McFeely Brick Company, and his mother, Nancy, knitted sweaters for Pennsylvania soldiers fighting overseas and was a hospital volunteer. Nancy and James adopted a daughter, Elaine, when Fred was 11 years old. He began playing piano at age 5, and he was bullied as a child due to his weight. Rogers studied at Latrobe High School, where he was president of the student council, editor-in-chief of the yearbook, and a member of the National Honor Society. After graduation, he enrolled at Dartmouth College, then transferred to Rollins College in Florida after his freshman year, graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1951. Fred graduated magna cum laude again in 1962, this time earning Bachelor of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. The following year, he became a minister after being ordained by the Pittsburgh Presbytery of the United Presbyterian Church, and his purpose was to minister to children through his television shows.
Career: Rogers once told CNN, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there’s some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen.” In the early 1950s, he took a job at NBC and worked as floor director of shows such as “Your Hit Parade” and “The Kate Smith Hour” and served as an assistant producer of the classical music program “The Voice of Firestone.” In 1953, Fred moved back to Pittsburgh and began working as a program developer at WQED, a public television station. He developed “The Children’s Corner” with Josie Carey, who hosted the show, and he created puppets, music, and characters for the series. In 1961, he began hosting the children’s program, “Misterogers” on CBC in Toronto, which went on to air more than 330 episodes. Fred returned to Pittsburgh in 1967, and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” premiered on National Educational Television (later known as the Public Broadcasting Service) on February 19, 1968. Rogers wrote and performed the show’s theme song, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” and wrote and edited every episode, created every character (both humans and puppets), and played most of the puppets.
In 1971, Fred founded Family Communications, Inc. (now known as The Fred Rogers Company) to produce “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and other shows. He took a break from producing the show in 1975 and began focusing on adult programming, and the network aired reruns until he returned to the program in 1979. Rogers retired in 2001, and the final episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” aired on August 31, 2001. In 1978, he hosted the PBS interview program “Old Friends … New Friends,” which he also wrote and produced. In 1987, Fred appeared on the Soviet children’s show “Good Night, Little Ones!,” and in 1994, he served as host, producer, and writer of the PBS special “Fred Rogers’ Heroes.” In 1996, he played a preacher in an episode of the CBS series “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” and he reprised the role of Mister Rogers on “Sesame Street” in 1981. A highly sought-after commencement speaker, Rogers spoke at more than 150 graduation ceremonies.
Personal Life: Fred married Joanne Byrd, his college sweetheart, on July 9, 1952, and they had two sons together, John and James. The couple remained together until Rogers’ death. Fred began following a pescatarian diet in 1970 and became a vegetarian in the early ’80s; he later became a co-owner of his friend Paul Obis’ magazine “Vegetarian Times.” Rogers followed the Presbyterian faith, and though he was a registered Republican, he was “very independent in the way he voted,” according to Joanne. After he began hosting Canada’s “Misterogers,” Fred answered every fan letter by hand, but after “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” debuted in the U.S., he could no longer keep up with the volume of letters and hired Hedda Sharapan, one of the show’s producers, to answer them. However, Rogers did continue to read every letter as well as edit and sign them. Fred enjoyed swimming and playing piano, and he made an effort to swim at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association every day.
Death and Legacy: Rogers suffered from chronic stomach pain, and he was diagnosed with stomach cancer in October 2002. He decided to delay treatment until he fulfilled his duties as Grand Marshal of the 2003 Rose Parade, then underwent stomach surgery on January 6th. Sadly, Fred passed away on February 27, 2003, at his Pittsburgh home at the age of 74, and his friend Archabbot Nowicki performed the last rites of the Catholic Church while Rogers was comatose. Fred’s funeral was held at the Unity Chapel in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, on March 1, 2003, and the service was “planned in great secrecy so that those closest to him could grieve in private.” He was buried in a mausoleum at Unity Cemetery that belongs to his mother’s family. A public memorial followed on May 3, 2003, at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, and it was attended by 2,700 mourners and broadcast on Pittsburgh TV stations and websites.
In June 2016, a roadside Pennsylvania Historical Marker was installed in Fred’s honor, and in 2018, the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” was released, becoming the highest-grossing biographical documentary of all time. In 2019, Rogers was played by Tom Hanks in the film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Hanks, who found out that he and Fred are sixth cousins in 2019, earned nominations from the Academy Awards, Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards for his performance. In 2003, the Fred Rogers Center was established in Latrobe to “to carry forward Fred Rogers’ important legacy” and “help children grow as confident, competent, and caring human beings.”
Awards and Honors: Rogers was nominated for more than 50 Daytime Emmy Awards, taking home the prize four times, and he received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. He earned three Primetime Emmy nominations and won two CINE Golden Eagle Awards and a Peabody Award, and in 2021, he was posthumously awarded a Grammy for Best Historical Album for “It’s Such A Good Feeling: The Best Of Mister Rogers.” The Television Critics Association Awards honored Fred with Career Achievement Awards in 1993 and 1997, and he was posthumously inducted into the Online Film & Television Association Hall of Fame in 2006. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1998, and he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1999.
President George W. Bush presented Rogers with a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002, and the U.S. Postal Service issued a Mister Rogers postage stamp in 2018. Fred also received a Ralph Lowell Award (1975), Myrtle Wreath Award (1977), Distinguished Communications Recognition Award (1981), Media Arts Award (1982), and Common Wealth Award (2002), and Asteroid 26858 Misterrogers was named after him in 2003. Rogers received honorary degrees from dozens of colleges and universities, including Yale University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Dartmouth College, and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary honored him with a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1978.
|Net Worth:||$3 Million|
|Date of Birth:||Mar 20, 1928 – Feb 27, 2003 (74 years old)|
|Height:||6 ft (1.83 m)|
|Profession:||Educator, Songwriter, Television producer, Author, Screenwriter, Actor, Presenter, Minister, Television Show Host, Voice Actor|
|Nationality:||United States of America|