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"California's Gold": showcasing the Golden State through PBS.

Updated on July 10, 2015
Huell Burnley Howser
Huell Burnley Howser | Source

Who Was Huell? A beloved broadcaster on PBS, advocating the Golden State he loved....(In memoriam of Huell Burnley Howser-October 18, 1945 – January 7, 2013

Mostly everyone in California knows of and still remembers the name, Huell Howser. His affection for the beauty and wonders of California made him a household name in the Golden State. Some of his shows also aired in Oregon and Nevada. He championed for “everyday” folks and small businesses - many carried on through generations of families; he visited highways and byways visiting museums, farms, parks, rivers, lakes, oceans, large cities, small communities, and many more cultural, historical, and natural wonders. He was always vastly in search of places unknown by the public. It was evident that he enjoyed every single episode as much as the next. His legacy is too much of a treasure to keep under wraps, so, without further ado - welcome, reader, to the world of Huell Howser and his captivating, educational, and down-to-earth shows. Huell believed in simple media, not in fancy trimmings. He proved it was not necessary...


One day, my husband came home from work talking about a show that one of his coworkers had suggested, We turned on KCET, the local public broadcasting channel that carried his show, and found a tall, husky, man with salt and pepper hair wearing sunglasses, talking with a definitive southern accent, and saying things like, “Now that’s amazing!” with special accentuation of the second “A”. Huell was a man who had a smile as bright as the California sun. We had no idea how popular he was but it did not take long to realize that he was beloved, and that his smile and mannerisms found their way into many hearts and living rooms.

Huell earned his Bachelors Degree in History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Later, he worked on staff for Senator Howard Baker, then served with the United States Marine Corps. Eventually, he began a broadcasting career with television station WSM in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 1973, Huell had a series, “The Happy World of Huell Howser” showcasing the similar style that he would eventually bring to his California series. He interviewed local townsfolk doing “everyday” things, and sometimes interviewed celebrities such as Minnie Pearl.

Early Career

Huell’s career with WSM started in the late 60’s, extending into the late 70’s, where he rode around in a motorhome pursuing new stories.

Huell had discovered a world brimming with diverse cultures and had made it his goal to allow the public to have center stage. Huell stated, in a 1977 pilot for WSM:

“…each person has a story to tell, a story worth listening to. We operate with the idea that it’s much more important to listen to what people have to say, than what we have to say about them!”

After leaving WSM, Huell worked for station WCBS in New York hosting a magazine series, then in 1981, he moved to Los Angeles where he produced a successful series called “Videolog” with KCBS - which would eventually lead the way to an upcoming series called “California’s Gold” with PBS station KCET in 1987.

Learning About Huell's Childhood And Career

Huell’s captivating and informative series brought him respect and admiration. His website invited folks to write in and “suggest” worthy places to visit. Truly, he had found his home. He loved California, and California loved him back.

Short Snippet of Huell Howser on The Simpsons

Huell's Shows

Huell’s shows:

  • Behind the Scenes
  • California Missions
  • California’s Communities
  • California’s Gold
  • California’s Golden Coast
  • California’s Golden Fairs
  • California’s Golden Parks
  • California’s Green
  • California’s Water
  • Downtown
  • Memorial
  • News
  • Our Neighborhoods
  • Palm Springs Week
  • Road Trip
  • Specials
  • The Bench

Early Retirement And End Of An Era

An unexpected announcement in 2012 reported that Huell Howser was going to retire from producing any more shows, and speculation was that he had been suffering from a long time illness. According to the timeline that he had donated his works to Chapman College, which was back in 2011, he most likely knew he would be ending his career in the near future before any public announcements surfaced. Huell had a long-time connection with Chapman University to whom he donated his personal papers and books. He also donated his archived collection of video-taped shows, requesting that upon his death, be digitized and made free to the public. He left his houses to the Chapman University, with proceeds from sales to go to his established California Gold Scholarship. His entire archived collection is available to watch through Chapman University’s website.

A Life Well Lived...

Huell passed away on January 7, 2013 at his Palm Springs, California home. His death certificate stated he died of prostate cancer. He was 67. He left a lasting legacy!

Find out why so many people have been, and still are, drawn to Huell’s shows. If you are planning a trip to California, these videos may help you find exciting places to visit near the proximity of your trip - add another exciting adventure! If you are a virtual tourist, you are in for a treat because you can cover multiple regions of California in one afternoon. If you are contemplating a move to California, check out a video from the area where you are moving - a great way to become acquainted with the communities. You will find a fascinating fact about California: you can delightfully find yourself in different geographical environments in only a matter of hours. You may be at the ocean during the first part of the day, and two or three hours later, you may be driving up winding, pine crested highways. Even crazier still, one area may be cold and snowy, while the other is sunny and warm. In between, you may even find yourself in the desert or inland valleys.

Choose from any of Huell’s enthralling California series - he has been everywhere - northern, central, southern regions. You will learn a great deal about California’s history, culture, traditions, and diversity. As Huell would say, “That’s amazing!” - and it is!

Archived Shows:

Chapman University Huell Howser Archive: https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/

Sources:

KCET.org

Chapman University

Huell Howser Productions.com

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