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Phil Donahue was born in Cleveland, Ohio. The son of a furniture salesman and a shoe seller, Donahue graduated from St Edward’s High School in Lakewood, Ohio, and attended the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
After college, Donahue worked as an announcer at KYW radio in Cleveland and then became a newscaster at WHIO in Dayton, Ohio, where he also hosted his first talk show on radio, Conversation Piece.
The Phil Donahue Show first went to air in 1967 as a local talk show in Dayton. The show went national in 1970 and had its final hour in 1996 when ratings fell with the influx of many talk shows that covered similar subject matters.
During his tenure on TV, Donahue won an impressive nine daytime Emmys as Outstanding Talk Show Host and a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 1996. In 1992, Donahue, in addition to his regular syndicated talk show, co-hosted This Week With Donahue and Pozner, which also starred Vladimir Pozner, the former information chief of the Soviet Union.
Except for occasional cameo guest appearances on such shows as Ellen and Frasier, Donahue retired from the television spotlight, except to promote various worthwhile causes with his wife, actress Marlo Thomas (former star of That Girl).
Phil Donahue is the brother of actress Elinor Donahue who was one of the stars of Father Knows Best.