Brought black performers to wider audience

Bob Henry, a producer and director of television variety shows including “The Nat King Cole Show” and “The Flip Wilson Show,” died Sunday, March 18, at his home in Laguna Beach, Calif. He was 92.

In his more than five decades in television, Henry was noted for bringing black performers like Cole and Wilson to a wider audience.

He produced, directed and wrote 1956’s “Nat King Cole Show” for NBC; several network affiliates refused to air the show because of its black star.

Henry would later direct and produce variety shows for Andy Williams, the Carpenters, Glen Campbell and Barbara Mandrell and also helmed Emmy and Grammy Awards telecasts as well as many editions of the Black Achievement Awards, the last in 1993.

Born in Boston, he graduated from Tufts U. in 1940. Henry worked as a comedian in the Catskills during the early 1940s, entertained soldiers after WWII and became an on-air personality for radio stations in Boston and New York in the late 1940s.

Transitioning from radio to television in the early 1950s, Henry worked as an associate producer on “The Colgate Comedy Hour” in 1951. Henry soon became an employee of NBC.

He made an appearance on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson” in 1972 and, much more recently, in the 2006 docuseries “The 100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catchphrases.”

Henry served on the board of directors for Laguna Beach’s Festival of Arts from 2001-07 and as board president in 2004.

He is survived by his wife, Annette; a daughter and son; two grandchildren; and four great grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held Monday, March 26, at 10 a.m. at St. Catherine’s of Siena in Laguna Beach. A rosary will precede the mass at 9:30.

Donations may be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and/or the Roaring Fork Education Foundation.

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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