Charles Van Doren (1926 - 2019)

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Obituary

Charles Van Doren (AP Photo) Charles Van Doren in the 2019 Memorials Photo Gallery Enlarged Photo
Charles Van Doren was at the center of the infamous 1950s TV quiz show scandal. The tall sophisticated Columbia University professor, the son of noted poet Mark Van Doren, won $129,000 (more than one million dollars today) on the game show “Twenty-One” in 1956-1957. He became a big celebrity in TV’s golden age, featured on the cover of Time magazine, getting a job as a cultural reporter on the “Today” show.

An investigation into the fixing of game shows by Congress revealed that Van Doren had been given the answers to questions by producer Albert Freedman in order to beat champion Herb Stempel, knowing Van Doren would be better for ratings. Van Doren pled guilty to perjury, receiving no jail time, but was forced to resign from Columbia. He then worked for Encyclopedia Brittanica, retiring in 1982. The scandal was the subject of the Robert Redford film, “Quiz Show.”

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