Tonight, Nightline's John Donvan sits down with Mister Rogers and finds out what makes him the coolest guy in the neighborhood.
Mister Rogers has won audiences over for the last four decades with his charm, his smile and gentle demeanor. He has invited us into his neighborhood for the last 40 years, assuring us that we were special and that he liked us just for being us - and we liked him for being him. But who is Mister Rogers?
Fred McFeely Rogers was born in 1928 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, about an hour's drive from Pittsburgh. He attended Rollins College, in Winter Park, Florida, and graduated with a degree in music composition. Rogers first job out of school was working as an Assistant Producer on The Voice of Firestone on NBC.
In November 1953, Rogers moved back to Pittsburgh at the request of WQED, the nation's first community-supported public television station. The station was not yet on the air, and Rogers was asked to develop the program schedule for the following year.
One of the programs he developed was called The Children's Corner. It was a freewheeling, live, hour-long visit with puppets and host Josie Carey, another Pittsburgher. In addition to co-producing the program, Rogers also served as puppeter and musician. In 1955, the program series won the Sylvania Award for the best locally produced children's program in the country and remained on air for a total of seven years.
It was on The Children's Corner that several regulars of today's Mister Rogers' Neighborhood made their first appearances - among them, Daniel Striped Tiger, King Friday XIII, X the Owl, and Lady Elaine Fairchilde.
Opportunity led Rogers to Toronto later that year. There he created a children's series of fifteen-minute episodes called MISTEROGERS and made his on-camera debut as the program's host. He chose to return to Pittsburgh and in 1966, at WQED, he incorporated the fifteen-minute segments into a half-hour format. The new series was distributed by the Eastern Educational Network until 1968 when it was made available for national distribution through the Public Broadcasting Service.
Also in 1968 Rogers was appointed Chairman of the Forum on Mass Media and Child Development of the White House Conference on Youth. Besides two George Foster Peabody Awards, Emmys, "Lifetime Achievement" Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the TV Critics Association, Fred Rogers has received every major award in television for which he is eligible and many others from special-interest groups in education, communications, and early childhood. In 1999, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
Mister Rogers Biography courtesy Family Communications, Inc.