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Known for his catchphrase “That’s what’s going on around the country; here’s what’s happening in your neck of the woods,” weatherman and TV personality Al Roker was born in Queens Aug. 20, 1954. After majoring in broadcasting and journalism in college, Roker rose through the ranks of news broadcasting, eventually landing at NBC and anchoring the daily weather reports on “The Today Show” since 1996.
He has also branched out in surprising directions, founding multimedia company Al Roker Entertainment in 1994 and penning an award-winning murder mystery series starting in 2009. Married to fellow TV journalist Deborah Roberts, Roker has three children. He is also a distant cousin of musician Lenny Kravitz.
Albert Lincoln Roker Jr. was born in Queens to Isabel and Albert Roker. His father, a former bus driver and labor relations negotiator, was of Jamaican and Bahamian descent. Raised in the Catholic faith of his mother, the future television personality attended Xavier High School in Manhattan, where he originally aspired to be a cartoonist.
While attending SUNY Oswego, Roker embarked on his career on television as a weather anchor for a CBS affiliate in Syracuse. Following graduation in 1976, the Queens native briefly worked in Washington, D.C., before landing at NBC two years later.
After starting out at a Cleveland affiliate, by 1983 the young weatherman returned to New York City and was soon covering the weather every weeknight. Starting in 1990, the rising star began filling in on “The Today Show” for the legendary Willard Scott when he was out on vacation or ill.
By January 1996, with Scott’s semi-retirement, the boy from Queens who dreamed of drawing cartoons was poised to fill some big shoes with a full-time role on the show.
Roker set out to put his own mark on the broadcast. He began doing his weather forecasts outside the studio, mixing with and interviewing audience members and branching out into more segments on the program. While covering Hurricane Wilma in 2005, the intrepid reporter was even swept off his feet by the powerful winds, grabbing on to his cameraman to avoid being blown away.
Not content with just weather, Roker is a true renaissance man. He has been a contestant on both “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune,” appeared in an episode of “Seinfeld” and lent his voice in the movie “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” in 2008.
Showing his lighter side, he currently holds the record for most guest appearances on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” at 30 shows. After undergoing gastric bypass surgery in 2002, Roker shed 100 pounds from his 320-pound frame and even completed the ING New York City Marathon in 2010. Not one to forget the less fortunate, the son of a bus driver from Queens also sits on the celebrity board of directors of Ronald McDonald House Charities.
This Emmy Award-winning weatherman, bestselling author, game show contestant and father of three has risen from modest beginnings to become a household name. Approaching his 58th year, Roker reflects on his amazing story and future prospects with a dash of humor and a dose of humility: “I don’t make plans, because life is short and unpredictable — much like the weather!”
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©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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