Fred McFeely Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003) was an American television personality, musician, puppeteer, writer, producer, and Presbyterian minister. Rogers was famous for creating, hosting, and composing the theme music for the educational preschool television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968–2001), which featured his kind-hearted, grandfatherly personality, and directness to his audiences.
Initially educated to be a minister, Rogers was displeased with the way television addressed children and made an effort to change this when he began to write for and perform on local Pittsburgh-area shows dedicated to youth. WQED developed his own show in 1968 and it was distributed nationwide by Eastern Educational Television Network. Over the course of three decades on television, Fred Rogers became an icon of American children’s entertainment and education. He was also known for his advocacy of various public causes. His testimony before a lower court in favor of fair-use recording of television shows to play at another time (now known as time shifting) was cited in a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Betamax case, and he gave now-famous testimony to a U.S. Senate committee, advocating government funding for children’s television.
Rogers received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, some forty honorary degrees, and a Peabody Award. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, was recognized by two Congressional resolutions, and was ranked No. 35 among TV Guide‘s Fifty Greatest TV Stars of All Time. Several buildings and artworks in Pennsylvania are dedicated to his memory, and the Smithsonian Institution displays one of his trademark sweaters as a “Treasure of American History”. On June 25, 2016, the Fred Rogers Historical Marker was placed near Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and was named and dedicated in his memory.[6
More on Fred https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Rogersi
Click on the audio button below for a Passages Radio Show featuring Fred talking about his start in TV, attending seminary, helping start WQED and PBS, and his ministry to children and their families.
In the fall of 1997, Presbyterians Today editor Eva Stimson interviewed Fred Rogers in his cramped office at WQED in Pittsburgh. Her story appeared in the March 1998 issue of the magazine.
The Real “Mister Rogers” (below is an excerpt from the article to reflect on)
In the early 1960’s, Fred recalls, national staff in the United Presbyterian Church U.S.A. began talking to him about developing a children’s TV program as an outreach of the denomination. But then priorities shifted and money for the project evaporated. Did the church miss a big opportunity?
“It’s hard to say,” comments Gregg Hartung, executive director of Presbyterian Media Mission and a personal friend of Rogers’. “I’m not sure a ministry like Fred’s could be done within an institution.” If a church-Rogers partnership had come to fruition, the PCUSA might be known today as a trailblazer in TV evangelism.
On the other hand, the constraints of working within a church bureaucracy might have had a stifling effect on Rogers’ creativity. Or his programming might have been buried in a “religious ghetto,” reaching only a fraction of the people whose lives have been affected by watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
As it turns out, Rogers’ principle tie to the Presbyterian Church is his unusual ordination to the ministry. In 1962 Pittsburgh Presbytery ordained him with a charge to continue his work with children and families through the media. He has never served in the traditional role of pastor, but through television he brings his simple message of affirmation and acceptance to a “congregation” of millions.
“I’ve seen it happen so often – what I present in faith somehow nourishes the viewer,” Rogers says. Before taping a TV show, he always prays to God: “Let some word that is said be yours.” He firmly believes in “holy ground,” which he describes as “the space between the person who is offering his or her best and how the Holy Spirit can translate that to help another person in need.”
Presbyterian Historical Society releases rare early video of Fred Rogers’ “Sunday on the Children’s Corner”
PHILADELPHIA (PHS) The Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS) has recently transferred to digital video a rare 16mm print of Sunday on the Children’s Corner, the first television program to feature the piano-playing and puppeteering of Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers, supporting his creative partner, Josie Carey. Carey was born Josephine Vicari on August 20, 1930, in Pittsburgh.
Happy birthday to Fred and 50 years of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on PBS!