Phil Donahue Biography

(The Host of American TV Talk Show 'The Phil Donahue Show')

Birthday: December 21, 1935 (Sagittarius)

Born In: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

Phil Donahue is an American media personality, widely known as “King of Daytime Talk”. Born as Phillip John Donahue into a middle-class family, he became interested in broadcasting early in his life and started working at WNDU-TV station while studying for his bachelor’s degree. Eventually, he began his career as a television announcer in Cleveland before moving to Dayton, where he joined WHIO-TV as a news announcer, shortly becoming well-known for his perceptive intervening techniques. However, it was during his stint at the WLWD station that he became nationally famous as the host of The Phil Donahue Show, which ran successfully for three years before being syndicated. Later, he moved the show to Chicago and rechristened it simply as Donahue, earning not only ten Emmy Awards, but also becoming an inspiration to numerous television hosts including Oprah Winfrey, airing nearly 7,000 hour-long daily shows for 29 years before pulling it off the air.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Phillip John Donahue

Age: 88 Years, 88 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Marlo Thomas, Marge Cooney​ (m. 1958 - div. 1975)

father: Phillip Donahue

mother: Catherine Donahue

children: Daniel Donahue, Jim Donahue, Kevin Donahue, Mary Rose Donahue, Michael Donahue

Born Country: United States

Journalists Talk Show Hosts

U.S. State: Ohio

Ancestry: Irish American

City: Cleveland, Ohio

More Facts

education: University Of Notre Dame

awards: Peabody Award

  • 1

    What is Phil Donahue known for?

    Phil Donahue is best known as a television host and creator of the daytime talk show "The Phil Donahue Show."

  • 2

    When did "The Phil Donahue Show" first aired?

    "The Phil Donahue Show" first aired on December 29, 1967.

  • 3

    What made "The Phil Donahue Show" unique?

    "The Phil Donahue Show" was unique for its focus on audience participation and tackling controversial topics.

  • 4

    What is one of the most memorable moments from "The Phil Donahue Show?"

    One memorable moment from the show was when Donahue invited members of the Ku Klux Klan to appear on the program for a discussion.

  • 5

    How long did "The Phil Donahue Show" run for?

    "The Phil Donahue Show" ran for 29 years, from 1967 to 1996. 

Childhood & Early Life

Phillip John Donahue was born on December 21, 1935, in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., into a middle-class Irish Catholic family. His father, Phillip Donahue, was a furniture salesman, while his mother, Catherine nee McClory, was a shoe clerk at a departmental store. They divorced when he was still young.

Phil began his education at Our Lady of Angels Elementary School in Cleveland, eventually graduating from St. Edward High School in 1953. Thereafter, he entered University of Notre Dame with Business Administration, from where he graduated in 1957.

Concurrently with studying for his bachelor’s degree, he also started working at the university-owned WNDU-TV station. It was this experience which shaped his career more than his degree.

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In 1957, Phil Donahue began his career with a summer job, joining KYW radio and television station in Cleveland as a production assistant. But soon, he was switched to announcing when one day the regular announcer failed to show up and he successfully filled in his place.

After his stint with KYW, he briefly served as check sorter at Albuquerque National Bank in New Mexico before returning to KYW to become a television announcer. Later, he switched over to WABJ, a local radio station in Adrian, Michigan, and served as its program and news director for ten months.

In 1959, after a brief stint as a stringer for a CBS radio-television affiliate in Dayton, Ohio, he joined WHIO-TV, also in Dayton, as news announcer, serving in this capacity till 1963. Slowly he also started interviewing important personalities like Jimmy Hoffa and Billie Sol Estes, which were picked up nationally.

In 1963, he started anchoring the morning news. Also from the same year, he started hosting Conversation Piece, a phone-in afternoon talk show on WHIO radio. Very soon, he also began to host a business TV talk show and co-anchor the evening news.

All along, he continued to interview prominent people like John F. Kennedy, Johnny Carson, Malcolm X, Jerry Rubin, Pat Nixon, John Elton, Mohammed Ali etc. Very soon, he became famous for his perceptive intervening techniques.

In 1967, he left WHIO to try his hand as a traveling salesperson, selling stamp for E. F. MacDonald Company; but returned to broadcasting when in the same year, he was offered a morning interview show with studio audience by WLWD, another Dayton TV station.

The Phil Donahue Show

On November 6, 1967, Donahue debuted on DLDW with his The Phil Donahue Show. It was decided that he would have a single guest and one issue per show, his first guest being atheist activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

Shortly, he hit upon a new formula, soliciting the studio audience for questions. It made the show so popular that the station owners started syndicating it to other Midwestern stations from January 1970, reaching 44 cities within two years.

In 1974, Donahue moved his show from Dayton to Chicago, where it was called Donahue. The show was broadcast by WGN till 1984. During this period, he continued to take up topical issue, becoming first to undertake controversial subjects on national television, having an estimated national audience of some eight million people.

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In 1979, he published his autobiography, Donahue: My Own Story. Also from 1979, along with holding his own show, he started appearing on NBC's The Today Show as a contributor, continuing to do so till 1988.

In 1982, he made history by participating in the ‘US-Soviet Space Bridge’. In this program, he hosted an audience in America while Vladimir Vladimirovich Pozner hosted an audience in USSR. Two years later, he moved to New York City and started broadcasting his show from there.

All along he continued his association with Pozner and over the time, the two became close friends, enjoying a fruitful relationship. In 1987, his show became the first U.S. talk show to be filmed in the Soviet Union.

In 1992, he reunited with Vladimir Vladimirovich Pozner to co-host Posner/Donahue, a weekly program discussing various issues between the United States and the Soviet Union. Aired on CNBC, it continued till 1995.

By the middle of 1990s, he began to lose viewership to other talk shows, especially those hosted by Geraldo Rivera, Oprah Winfrey and Sally Jessy Raphael. Although Phil Donahue was the inspiration behind these shows, their more lurid format made his show look rather tame.

The final episode of Donahue was aired on September 13, 1996. Thereafter, lack of viewership prompted him to take the program off the air and he went into retirement.

In July 2002, he resurfaced on the television with another show called Donahue on MSNBC. But because of his anti-war views, it was shortly taken off the air, the last episode being aired on February 25, 2003.

In 2007, Donahue co-authored and co-directed documentary film, Body of War, with Ellen Spiro and in 2008 appeared as Santa Killer in one episode of the television series Watching the Detectives.

Major Work

Starting in 1967, TV show Donahue ran for 29 years before going off the air in 1996. During this period, it aired nearly 7,000 hour-long daily shows, catering to a nationwide audience. Till now, it remains one of the longest continuously run syndicated talk shows in U.S. television history.

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Awards & Achievements

In all, Phil Donahue has won ten Emmy Awards, nine among them being Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Talk Show Host (1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986 and 1988). That apart, he was also awarded a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 1996.

In 1980, he received the Peabody Award and in 1987 the "Maggie" Award.

On November 20, 1993, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.

In 1996, he was ranked #42 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time.

Family & Personal Life

On February 1, 1958, Donahue married Margaret Cooney The couple had five children, namely, Michael, Kevin, Daniel, Mary Rose, and James with her. The marriage ended in a divorce in 1975.

On May 21, 1980, he married American actress and author, Margaret Julia "Marlo" Thomas. The couple does not have any children.

Facts About Phil Donahue

Phil Donahue was the first talk show host to introduce a format focusing on audience participation, revolutionizing the way talk shows were produced.

Donahue is known for his advocacy of progressive causes and social justice issues, using his platform to raise awareness and promote positive change.

Despite his successful career in television, Donahue is also a published author with several books to his name, showcasing his talent beyond the screen.

Donahue has received multiple awards for his contributions to television and journalism, highlighting his impact and influence in the industry.

In addition to his professional accomplishments, Donahue is a proud father and family man, balancing his career with his personal life.

See the events in life of Phil Donahue in Chronological Order

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