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Bob Henry Noted Television Pioneer Dies(March 21, 2012)
LAGUNA BEACH, CA -- (Marketwire) -- 03/21/12 -- Bob Henry, producer and director of such innovative television series as "The Nat King Cole Show" and "The Flip Wilson Show" passed away on March 18th at his home in Laguna Beach. Henry was 92.
Henry was present at the birth of the television variety show, moving from radio to television in 1950, as an associate producer in New York on the Colgate Comedy Hour with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. When Martin and Lewis migrated west, Henry became a staff employee of NBC and moved to Los Angeles.
During the course of 50-plus years in television, Henry produced and/or directed more than 25 different variety series and specials including "The Andy Williams Show" series, "Norman Rockwell's America," "The Carpenters," "The Summer Chevy Show," "The Glen Campbell Music Show" series, "The Emmy Awards," "The Grammy Awards," "The Gladys Knight and the Pips" series, "The Captain and Tennille" series, "The Perry Como Show," "200 years of Comedy with Jonathan Winters," "Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters" series, a Bob Hope special, and "A Tribute to Mother Maybell Carter." Additionally, Henry produced and directed "The American Black Achievement Awards" numerous times.
Henry was noted for his groundbreaking role in helping African American performers reach a broader audience. In 1957 Henry produced, directed and wrote "The Nat King Cole Show" which was the first network television show ever to star a black male performer. The show was so controversial that it ran without national commercials and several NBC affiliates refused to air the show.
In 1970, Henry helped make Flip Wilson a star. Henry directed a Flip Wilson Special a year prior to producing the series, which ran for four years on NBC. "The Flip Wilson Show" was the first variety show starring an African American performer to be number one for several weeks and ended the 1970 and 1971 seasons as the number two show in all of television. Henry received both an Emmy and a Peabody Award for the show.
Henry was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1919, and graduated from Tufts University in 1940. He performed as a comedian in the Catskills during the early 1940's, entertained the troops after WWII in the Pacific Theatre and served as an on-air personality for radio stations in Boston and New York in the late 1940's.
A 30-year Laguna Beach resident with a history of community service, Henry served on the Festival of Arts board of directors from 2001 to 2007, and as the board president of the Festival of Arts in 2004. Henry was president of the Laguna Beach Garden Club for two years and a recipient, along with his wife Annette, of the Gardner of the Year award from the Orange County District of the California Garden Clubs, Inc. He was also actively involved in promoting the building of a new Senior Citizen Center in Laguna Beach.
Henry is survived by Annette, his wife of 30 years; his daughter, Ruth Massaro of Mill Valley, CA; his son, Keith Henry of Studio City; two grandchildren, Robert Merithew of Dayton, OH and Brendan Merithew of Pittsboro, NC and four great grandchildren: Anson, Amelia, Sarah and Abner. Henry was preceded in death by his first wife, Shirley in 1972.
Funeral services are Monday, March 26th at 10 am at St. Catherine's of Siena in Laguna Beach. A rosary will precede the mass at 9:30 am.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and/or the Roaring Fork Education Foundation, in memory of Bob Henry.
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