About Johnny Carson

About Johnny Carson

Born in Corning, Iowa, Johnny Carson grew up in Norfolk, Nebraska. He served in World War II in the Navy as an ensign before enrolling at the University of Nebraska in 1947. He received a bachelor of arts degree in radio and speech with a minor in physics in 1949. He studied radio in the basement of the Temple Building.

One of television’s best known personalities, Carson is often called “the king of late night.” In 1962, Carson replaced Jack Paar as host of “The Tonight Show” for an Emmy Award-winning run that lasted three decades. His final appearance in May 1992 attracted an estimated 50 million viewers. He received six Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1993, where the Cornhusker Marching Band paid tribute to him and his Nebraska roots.

Carson died in 2005.

The University of Nebraska has received more than $33 million in total philanthropic support from Johnny Carson and the Johnny Carson Foundation, including:

  • A $5.3 million gift in 2004 to renovate and expand the Temple Building and to create an endowment to keep performance spaces current with the latest in sound and lighting technologies.

  • An additional $5 million gift in 2005 to create an endowment to support programs in theatre, film and broadcasting.

  • More than $2.5 million donated by the Johnny Carson Foundation beginning in 2011 to create the Johnny Carson Opportunity Scholarship Fund.

  • A $20 million gift in 2015 from the Johnny Carson Foundation to create the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts.