Godfrey, Arthur, 1903-1983

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Arthur Morton Leo Godfrey (August 31, 1903 – March 16, 1983) was an American radio and television broadcaster and entertainer who was sometimes introduced by his nickname The Old Redhead or The Ole Redhead. At the peak of his success, in the early-to-mid 1950s, Godfrey was heard on radio and seen on television up to six days a week, sometimes for as many as nine separate broadcast for CBS. His programs included Arthur Godfrey Time (Monday-Friday mornings on radio and television), Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (Monday evenings on radio and television), Arthur Godfrey and His Friends (Wednesday evenings on television), The Arthur Godfrey Digest (Friday evenings on radio) and King Arthur Godfrey and His Round Table (Sunday afternoons on radio).

Godfrey served in the United States Navy from 1920 to 1924 as a radio operator on naval destroyers, but returned home to care for the family after his father's death. Additional radio training came during Godfrey's service in the Coast Guard from 1927 to 1930. He passed a stringent qualifying examination and was admitted to the prestigious Radio Materiel School at the Naval Research Laboratory, graduating in 1929. During a Coast Guard stint in Baltimore he appeared, on October 5 of that year, in a local talent show broadcast and became popular enough to land his own brief weekly program.

Godfrey's folksy manner, singing, and ukelele playing helped contribute to winning him millions of admirers in the 1940's and 50's through his television and radio appearances. The infamous on-air firing of cast member Julius La Rosa in 1953 tainted his down-to-earth, family-man image and resulted in a marked decline in popularity which he was never able to regain. Over the following two years, Godfrey fired over twenty additional cast and crew members, under similar disregard and questionable ethics, for which he was heavily attacked by the press and public alike. A self-made man, he was fiercely competitive; some of his employees were fired for merely speaking with ones he considered to be competitors, like Ed Sullivan, or for signing with agents. By the late 1950s, his presence had been reduced to hosting the occasional television special and his daily network radio show, which ended in 1972.

Godfrey was strongly identified with many of his commercial sponsors, especially Chesterfield cigarettes and Lipton Tea. He advertised Chesterfield for many years, during which he devised the slogan "Buy 'em by the carton", but he terminated his relationship with the company after he quit smoking, five years before he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1959. He later became a prominent spokesman for the tobacco control movement.

Arthur Godfrey died on March 16, 1983 at the age of 79, just a few months short of his 80th birthday.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Lyndon Baines Johnson Archives Collection. 1931 - 1968. Famous Names Correspondence Files Lyndon Baines Johnson Library
referencedIn Michael A. Gorman papers, 1920-1958 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn American Vaudeville Museum collection, 1845-2007, (bulk 1910-1940) University of Arizona Libraries, Library Special Collections
referencedIn Goldman, Eric Frederick, 1915-1989. Eric Frederick Goldman papers, 1886-1988 (bulk 1940-1970). Library of Congress
referencedIn Lyn Duddy scores, 195-? The New York Public Library. Music Division.
creatorOf Duddy, Lyn. [Lyn Duddy collection]. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Minnie Pearl. Celebrity pesticide spots phonograph records : manuscript collections, 1970. National Agricultural Library, NAL
creatorOf Thirteen/WNET Arthur Godfrey Collection, 1923-1983 and undated, 1950-1978 University of Maryland (College Park, Md.). Libraries
creatorOf Russell, Frank M., 1895- . Recording [sound recording], 1958. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Michel, Don, 1931-. Don Michel "Insight" Radio Program collection, 1960-1978. Southern Illinois University, Morris Library
referencedIn Frank Stanton Papers, 1908-2006, (bulk 1926-1979) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Train, Russell E., 1920-. Russell E. Train papers, 1898-2005 (bulk 1957-2005). Library of Congress
referencedIn Records of Naval Operating Forces, 1849 - 1997. Records Relating to Public Relations, ca. 10/1943 - ca. 4/1946. Godfrey, Arthur - Columbia Broadcasting System. National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Powell, Roger, 1906-2001. Roger F. Powell letter, 1952 Nov. 22. Thomas Balch Library
referencedIn Irving Berlin collection of non-commercial sound recordings [sound recording] The New York Public Library. Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.
referencedIn Clark, Dick, 1929-. [Interview with Dick Clark] [sound recording] / Dick Clark ; [interviewed by] David Marc, New York City, 10-27-98. Syracuse University
referencedIn Anderson, Richard N. Richard N. Anderson photographs [manuscript], 1937-1972. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Cushing, George William, b. 1888. George William Cushing papers, 1904-1959. Detroit Public Library, Detroit Main Library
referencedIn Ellis, Michael, 1917-. Michael Ellis papers, 1937-1985. University of Pittsburgh
referencedIn The Railroad hour, radio program [sound recording], 1948-1954 The New York Public Library. Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.
referencedIn Jankowski, Gene F. [Interview with Gene Jankowski] [sound recording] / Gene Jankowski ; [interviewed by] David Marc, New York, May 18, 1998. Syracuse University
referencedIn Eric Frederick Goldman Papers, 1886-1988, (bulk 1940-1970) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Smith, H. Allen (Harry Allen), 1907-1976. Harry Allen Smith photograph collection, 1925-1976. Southern Illinois University, Morris Library
referencedIn Stanton, Frank, 1908-2006. Frank Stanton papers, 1908-2006 (bulk 1926-1979). Library of Congress
referencedIn Goldman, Eric Frederick, 1915-1989. Papers, 1886-1988 (bulk 1940-1970). Library of Congress
referencedIn American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. Records. Niagara Massage Units, 1929-1974. American Medical Association,James S. Todd Memorial Library
referencedIn Catoctin Mountain Alliance. Catoctin Mountain Alliance records, 1985-1995. Thomas Balch Library
referencedIn Russell E. Train Papers, 1898-2005, (bulk 1957-2005) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Thomas S. Power Papers, 1928-1970 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
referencedIn The Radio Entertainers and Announcers Collection, 1937-1945 (Bulk 1942-1943) New-York Historical Society
referencedIn Angell, Hughes T. Papers of Hughes Angell [manuscript], 1929, 1943-1981. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Pre-Presidential Papers of Richard M. Nixon, 1946 - ca. 1963. General Correspondence, 1946 - 1963. Godfrey, Arthur. Richard Nixon Library
referencedIn David Goldin Collection, 1932 - ca. 1952. Audio Recordings of Radio Broadcasts of Speeches, Interviews, Combat Reports, Special Events, Public Affairs, and Entertainment for U.S. Troops, 1932 - ca. 1952. ARTHUR GODFREY'S TALENT SCOUTS. National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Billings, Lucille. Papers of Lucille (Loukratia Gerasimos) Billings, 1915-1976. Detroit Public Library, Detroit Main Library
creatorOf Gorman, Michael A. (Michael Arthur), 1892-1958. Michael Arthur Gorman papers, 1920-1958. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Flavin, Madge. [Culinary ephemera : fish and seafood]. Box 271. William L. Clements Library
Relation Name
associatedWith American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. corporateBody
associatedWith American Museum of Vaudeville corporateBody
associatedWith Anderson, Richard N. person
associatedWith Angell, Hughes T. person
associatedWith Berlin, Irving, 1888-1989 person
associatedWith Billings, Lucille. person
associatedWith Catoctin Mountain Alliance. corporateBody
associatedWith Clark, Dick, 1929- person
associatedWith Columbia Broadcasting System, inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Cullen, Frank, 1936- person
associatedWith Cushing, George William, b. 1888. person
associatedWith Duddy, Lyn person
correspondedWith Ellis, Michael, 1917- person
associatedWith Goldin, David person
correspondedWith Goldman, Eric Frederick, 1915-1989. person
associatedWith Gorman, Michael A. (Michael Arthur), 1892-1958. person
associatedWith Jankowski, Gene F. person
associatedWith McNeilly, Donald, 1945- person
associatedWith Michel, Don, 1931- person
associatedWith Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994 person
associatedWith Powell, Roger, 1906-2001. person
associatedWith Power, Thomas S. (Thomas Sarsfield), 1905- person
associatedWith Railroad Hour Radio Program corporateBody
associatedWith Russell, Frank M., 1895- . person
associatedWith Smith, H. Allen (Harry Allen), 1907-1976. person
correspondedWith Stanton, Frank, 1908-2006. person
correspondedWith Train, Russell E., 1920- person
memberOf United States. Coast Guard corporateBody
memberOf United States. Navy corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Manhattan NY US
Manhattan NY US
Business records--United States
Radio broadcasting--United States--Archival resources
Radio scripts
Contracts for work and labor--United States
Television broadcasting--United States--Archival resources
Television personalities
Radio broadcasters


Birth 1903-08-31

Death 1983-03-16





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