Powered by his lifelong legacy as an entertainer and animal activist, this icon was going strong till 99

In 1972, a flurry of events unfolded: Don McLean’s “American Pie” climbed to the top of the charts, Richard Nixon occupied the White House amidst the Watergate Scandal, NASA embarked on its Space Shuttle program, and Bob Barker, the charismatic host of the budding game show “The Price is Right”, was thrilling audiences with the chance to win brand new cars valued at less than $4000.

Synonymous with “The Price is Right”, Bob Barker stood as an entertainment icon, a household name transcending generations, having helmed the beloved game show for an impressive 35 years.

Last year marked a century since Barker’s birth, a milestone celebrated by admirers worldwide.

Hailing from an Indian reservation in South Dakota, Barker, a member of the Sioux Tribe, crossed paths with his future wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon, at an Ella Fitzgerald concert. Their love story unfolded, leading to marriage in 1945 during Barker’s hiatus from the United States Navy Reserve, where he trained as a fighter pilot during World War II. Although he didn’t serve on active duty, he pursued higher education, earning a degree in economics.

Barker, having passed away last year at the remarkable age of 99, caught the attention of Ralph Edwards, a game show producer, while hosting a radio program in Los Angeles. This encounter led to Barker’s tenure as the host of “Truth or Consequences” from 1956 to 1975, propelling him to fame. In 1967, he expanded his hosting duties to include the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants.

In 1972, Barker’s pivotal moment arrived when he graced the stage of “The Price is Right”, propelling both himself and the show to unprecedented stardom. The show claimed the title of the longest-running game show in history, a distinction it still holds, while Barker, assuming the role of executive producer in 1988, amassed an impressive collection of accolades, including 14 Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Game Show Host and four Emmys for his executive producer role.

Reflecting on his illustrious career in a 2008 interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Barker attributed much of his success to his late wife, acknowledging her unwavering support and integral role in his journey.

Tragically, Gideon passed away from lung cancer in 1981, leaving behind a legacy of love and devotion. Barker found companionship anew with Nancy Burnet, who stood by his side for four decades. Burnet attests to Barker’s remarkable health, emphasizing his minimal reliance on medication, a testament to his vitality and resilience.

Barker’s journey wasn’t without challenges. In 1999, he underwent surgery to address health concerns, followed by a stroke in 2002 and subsequent prostate surgery. Despite these obstacles, Barker’s commitment to health and well-being remained steadfast, aided by Burnet’s support and intervention.

Retiring from “The Price is Right”, now hosted by comedian Drew Carey, Barker cherished fond memories of his time on the show, which provided a platform for his advocacy for animal rights. His iconic sign-off, urging viewers to spay or neuter their pets, became synonymous with his unwavering dedication to animal welfare, a cause close to his heart.

Through the DJ&T Foundation, named in honor of Gideon and his mother, Barker championed animal rights, donating millions to establish animal-rights curricula at esteemed law schools and advocating for legislative change.

As Barker approached his centenary, his influence reverberated far beyond the realm of entertainment, serving as a beacon of compassion and advocacy. In a world often fraught with challenges, Barker’s legacy stood as a testament to the power of using one’s platform for good, leaving an indelible mark on generations to come.