From radio to television, Bob Barker is an icon in the entertainment industry and a household name among generations.
Decades before becoming a beloved game show host, Barker was born in Washington State where his father, Byron John Barker, worked as a high line electrician. After spending his formative years on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota with his mother, Matilda “Tilly” Valandra, Barker and his mom moved to Missouri after she remarried.
While in high school, Barker attended an Ella Fitzgerald concert where he met his future wife, Dorothy Jo Gideon. The two began dating when he was 15 and married in 1945 while he was on leave from the United States Navy Reserve. At the time, Barker wanted to be a professional athlete. “My dream was to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals,” he told the Television Academy Foundation in March 2008. “Only one thing prevented it. A total lack of talent.”
After graduating from college, he and Gideon lived in Florida, where he began his career in entertainment as an announcer for a Palm Beach radio station. One year later, upon settling in California, Barker landed his titular radio show, which ran for six years.
After getting his start on television as the host of Truth or Consequences – which he helmed from 1956 to 1975, Barker also began to host the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants starting in 1967. The TV personality began his tenure at The Price Is Right in 1972, which soon became his longest gig and his best-known role. He hosted the game show for 35 years before retiring in 2007.
The game show host credited his wife for his career. “She gave me the confidence to even try to do what I set out to do,” Barker told the Television Academy Foundation in 2008. “She didn’t just urge me on, she worked right at my side.” Gideon died of lung cancer in 1981 at the age 57.
“She was ahead of her time,” Barker told Good Morning America in 2007. “She stopped wearing fur coats before anyone was stopping. She became a vegetarian before people were becoming vegetarian. And I gradually did the same thing with her.”
After Gideon’s death, Barker began to become more outspoken about animal rights. The host started ending episodes of The Price Is Right with the phrase, “This is Bob Barker reminding you to help control the pet population – have your pets spayed or neutered.” He donated millions of dollars to multiple schools to support the study of animal rights and spoke out against the treatment of animals around the world. In 1995, the activist founded the DJ&T Foundation – named after his late wife and mother – which supports animal-neutering programs.
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