Late night entertainment legend Johnny Carson died Sunday at the age of 79. Born in Corning, Iowa, Carson grew up in Norfolk, Nebraska. He attended the University of Nebraska, and worked at two Omaha radio stations. He landed a job in television in California, wrote for comedian Red Skelton, hosted a couple shows of his own, filled in for other popular entertainers, and in 1962 finally became fulltime host of the Tonight Show. Carson didn’t live a long time in Iowa after being born in Corning, but he didn’t forget his birthplace after he became a star. Corning Mayor Guy Brace says Carson gave generous donations for two projects in the community. He says back in the mid 1990’s they completed a wooden playscape area at the Corning Elementary School that cost around 60-thousand dollars that Carson donated money. They also built a skate park two years ago that cost about 90-thousand dollars, and Carson made a donation to cover three-quarters of the cost. Brace says the home where Carson was born on October 23, 1925 is still standing. He says a deck’s been put on the home and the windows replaced, but he says it’s otherwise the same structure and sits at 12th and Davis streets. Brace says the locals know of the home — but it’s not been a major tourist attraction. He says they do get a few people now and then that inquire about it, and he says he’s sure they’ll get a lot more now. Brace says the city invited Carson to visit, but he was never able to do so. Brace says people are saddened by Carson’s death. He says they didn’t know him personally, but knew him from his gifts to the community and his show and he says they “Had a place for him in their hearts.” Carson spent around eight years in Iowa before moving to Nebraska with his family. Brace says Carson always seemed to reflect his early upbringing even after he became so famous. He says, “That was one of the things you kinda caught on his program, that he was still the midwestern boy.” Carson also gave a donation to the Performing Arts and Education Association in Red Oak for a new performing arts center. Executive director Sally Foss said at the time it was a substantial donation, and Carson asked that the dollar amount not be revealed. Foss says she talked to Carson and he was interested because the project has classroom/rehearsal space. She says Carson said he did not want his name on the building as he said it would distract from the reason they’re there, and it doesn’t matter who gave the money, it matters what happens in the facility.
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