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Alex Trebek (1940–2020), beloved ‘Jeopardy!’ host

by Legacy Staff

Alex Trebek was the beloved host of the iconic game show “Jeopardy!” for more than 35 years.

Record-setting TV host

Trebek became the host of “Jeopardy!” in 1984, reviving the show after it had been off the air since 1979. The answer-and-question game show became an entertainment institution, watched daily by millions of fans around the world. Trebek set the Guinness World Record for most episodes hosted by the same presenter in 2014. He won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host seven times between 1989 and 2020 for his work on “Jeopardy!” In 2013, TV Guide ranked “Jeopardy!” No. 1 on its list of “60 Greatest Game Shows.” Trebek continued taping episodes of “Jeopardy!” throughout his fight with pancreatic cancer, with his final shows taped just a week before his death and scheduled to air until Christmas 2020.

Before ‘Jeopardy!’

The Canadian-born Trebek started out working for the CBC, originally reading the news as a radio host before moving from news to hosting game shows. He moved to the United States in 1973, becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1998. In the U.S., Trebek’s early game shows included “The Wizard of Odds,” “High Rollers,” and “The $128,000 Question.” He continued to host other shows occasionally even while hosting “Jeopardy,” including the late-1980s game show “Classic Concentration” and the 1990s “Pillsbury Bake-Off.”

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A famous sense of humor

Trebek was a smooth-talking host, but he also showed a sly sense of humor on the show. To lighten the intensity, he walked out on set without pants during the 2005 Tournament of Champions; another time, for the category “Alex Meets Auto-Tune,” he read answers with a digital boy band voice. On April 1, 1997, Trebek switched places with fellow game show host Pat Sajak, hosting Sajak’s “Wheel of Fortune” for the day while Sajak hosted “Jeopardy!” A fan-favorite “Jeopardy!” moment was Trebek’s serious reading of rap lyrics for the category “It’s a Rap.”

Trebek the philanthropist

Trebek was involved with World Vision Canada, an organization helping families overcome poverty and injustice. He donated millions of dollars to his alma mater, the University of Ottawa, funding the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue, which brings notable speakers to the campus. He also funded the annual Alex Trebek Leadership Award at the university. Trebek traveled to military bases around the world as part of the USO, and he was a major supporter of the homeless shelter Hope of the Valley Mission as well as the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

How Trebek got into his career

Originally, I think, I wanted to be an actor. But I got into broadcasting by accident, if you will, because I needed money to pay for my college education. I applied for a summer announcing job at a couple of radio stations.” – Time magazine interview

Tributes to Alex Trebek

My family and I sincerely thank you all for your compassionate messages and generosity. Your expressions have truly touched our hearts. Thank you so very, very much.

Many Blessings to all,
Jean Trebek

Full obituary:  Los Angeles Times

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Kirk Fox and Linnea Crowther contributed to this report.

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