He died of stomach cancer on February 27, 2003, at the age of 74. His popular show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, was the longest-running program on public television. It ended in 2001 after 33 years on the air. Last year, Rogers was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor the nation can bestow. This interview first aired November 13, 2002.
His popular show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was the longest-running program on public television. It ran 33 years and ended its run in 2001. Rogers is the author of the new book, The Mister Rogers Parenting Book: Helping to Understand Your Young Child. (Running Press). Earlier this year, Rogers was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor the nation can bestow.
Marielle Heller's new film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, was inspired by the true story of Rogers' relationship with journalist Tom Junod, who was assigned to profile Fred Rogers in 1998 for a special issue of Esquire on American Heroes. Junod had acquired a reputation for saying the unsayable in his profiles and for his cynicism. The two men — one known for kindness; the other for his skepticism — formed an unlikely friendship.
Fifty years ago Monday, when Fred Rogers showed up on national public television as the host of what then was a brand new children's show called Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, TV was a lot different. PBS wasn't even a network then — not by that name, anyway — and aside from CBS, NBC and ABC, there were only a few independent local channels to watch, if that.