A longtime icon of late night television who was born in Iowa is being remembered this week in his nearby college town. Johnny Carson was born in Corning, Iowa, grew up in Norfolk, Nebraska, and attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
Today, U-N-L is dedicating the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film. College spokeswoman Kathe Anderson says Carson donated a lot of money to the school. "The initial gift was when he was still alive. That’s five-point-three million," Anderson says, "then, after he passed away, we received an additional five-million dollars. Four-million went for an endowment for the Johnny Carson School and then one-million created an endowment that was for collaborative programs between the college of journalism’s broadcasting program and the Johnny Carson School."
Early in his career, Carson worked for two different radio stations in Omaha. Later, he made a name for himself in California and eventually was named host of the "The Tonight Show" on NBC in 1962, where he remained as host through 1992. Anderson says Carson’s generous gifts will help bring more students to the college. She says the renovated facility is now state-of-the-art with a moveable lighting grid that’s the only one of its kind in the Midwest and one of only two in the world.
Carson died of complications from emphysema in 2005 at age 79. A fundraising effort was launched in southwest Iowa just over a year ago to preserve the Corning home where Carson was born in 1925, in addition to changing the name of the street where the house sits from Quincy Avenue to Johnny Carson Avenue.