John Humphrys: Voice of the Today programme

The broadcaster is stepping down as presenter of the flagship current affairs programme.

Press Association
Last updated: 17 September 2019 - 4.20pm

John Humphrys has forged a fearsome reputation as an interviewer for the BBC during a 50-year career.

The Welsh newsreader, foreign correspondent, quiz master and author will depart the Today programme after 32 years.

He does not plan to retire, and will continue to host the BBC Two quiz show Mastermind.

John Humphrys
John Humphrys began his career in Wales before joining the BBC (Jeff Overs/BBC)

An eventful career has seen him cover Richard Nixon’s 1974 resignation and publish a series of books on language and religion.

It is his role as a relentless interrogator on BBC Radio 4’s early-morning current affairs show that made his reputation and legacy.

Humphrys was born as one of five children in Cardiff to Winifred Mary Matthews, a hairdresser, and Edward George Humphrys, a French polisher.

He attended Cardiff High School, at that time a grammar, and left aged 15 to join the Penarth Times as a cub reporter.

Britain’s then prime minister Tony Blair (right) talks with a younger John Humphrys
Britain’s then prime minister Tony Blair (right) talks with a younger John Humphrys (Adam Butler/PA)

Later, he joined the larger Western Mail and after a stint at Welsh TV channel TWW moved to the BBC in 1966.

Humphrys was the first reporter on the scene of the fatal Aberfan disaster in his native Wales, which killed 144 people.

He spent his first years at the BBC as a foreign correspondent in the US and South Africa.  He covered President Nixon’s fall, and the birth of Zimbabwe.

Humphrys grew tired of life on the road. He missed his wife Edna and their children Christopher and Catherine.

He returned to London in 1980 to become a diplomatic correspondent and a year later was promoted to main presenter of the now defunct Nine O’Clock News.

Six years later he joined the BBC Radio 4 programme Today. His tenure has been at times controversial for his remarks on the “dumbing down” of television, and criticism of the BBC itself.

On screen the broadcaster has hosted Mastermind, and has stood in for former host David Dimbleby on Question Time.

His prominence in the sphere of British politics and broadcasting has led to cameo roles.

The presenter appeared alongside Hollywood star Eric Bana in the thriller Closed Circuit, playing himself. He also has credits on Ali G Indahouse, and hit BBC drama Bodyguard.

Humphrys has also written several books, including In God We Doubt, and Lost For Words, as well as his memoirs.

The broadcaster has been divorced twice and has a third child, a son, with his second wife, Valerie Sanderson, a newsreader for Spotlight and BBC News 24.

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