Culture

Bob Barker, US Navy veteran, dead at 99

The longtime "The Price Is Right" host served during World War II.
Nicholas Slayton Avatar
Bob Barker in 2015. (Photo by Araya Doheny/Getty Images)

Bob Barker, the iconic host of “The Price Is Right” for nearly 50 years, died Saturday, Aug. 26 at the age of 99. Alongside his long career in television, Barker was a U.S. military veteran, serving in the U.S. Navy as an aviator during World War II.

Robert William Barker was born on Dec. 12, 1923. Before his service, Barker grew up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in North Dakota. His father was a quarter Sioux and Barker was listed as and considered himself part Sioux. After the United States entered World War II, Barker enlisted in 1943. He chose to join the U.S. Navy because, by his own admission, he saw a photo of a naval aviator in full dress whites and was impressed by the man’s appearance.

“I thought, ‘If I’m going to go to war, I want to go looking like that guy,’” Barker told CNN in a 2013 interview.

In that same interview, Barker said that he had never even been on a plane before enlisting, nor had he seen the ocean. But he joined the Navy. He earned his aviator wings, but the war ended before he was deployed and Barker did not see combat.

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After World War II, he finished college, earning a degree in economics. While studying he got his start in broadcast, working in radio. He relocated to California in 1950, working as an anchor before getting his own radio program, the aptly titled “Bob Barker Show.” After six years with his radio show, he was selected to take over the television game show “Truth or Consequences.” That led to a successful 19-year-long run on the show. 

But his big claim to fame was hosting “The Price Is Right.” Barker was selected to host the revival in 1972. He became an iconic daytime host, telling contestants to “come on down!” and compete, guessing the prices of different items. He was a hit, hosting the show for almost 50 years until he stepped down in 2007. When asked why he was leaving, Barker said that he wanted to “retire while I’m still young.”

Barker’s career was also marked by several lawsuits from models who had worked with him on the game show, most settled out of court. A prominent case in 1994 saw him accused of sexual misconduct but was withdrawn a year later. 

Over the course of his career, Barker won 19 Daytime Emmy Awards, including one Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995, a full decade before he stepped down from hosting “The Price Is Right.” His replacement, Drew Carey, had served in the Marine Corps Reserve. Barker was also a martial artist, having trained for years in Karate. 

In addition to his television career, Barker was a noted activist for animals. He donated to animal charities often and stopped working with beauty pageants after they refused to stop giving out fur coats in prize packages. He regularly ended each episode of “The Price Is Right” telling viewers: “Don’t forget to have your pets spayed or neutered!”

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