Timeline of the George Foster Peabody Awards
In 1938, the National Association of Broadcasters formed a committee to establish a prestigious award for radio. One member, Lambdin Kay, manager of WSB Radio in Atlanta, made it his special project. Using the Pulitzer Prize program as a guideline, Kay approached John E. Drewry, dean of the Grady School, about sponsoring the awards. By 1940, the plan had been endorsed by the NAB and the Board of Regents of the University of Georgia.
The awards program was named for George Foster Peabody, a native Georgian, industrialist, financier and major benefactor of the university. His daughter, Marjorie Peabody Waite, served on the first Advisory Board and commissioned the design of the famous bronze medallion.
The first awards, for radio programs broadcast in 1940, were presented at a banquet at the Commodore Hotel in New York on March 29, 1941. The ceremony was broadcast live nationwide on CBS and included addresses by CBS founder and board chairman William S. Paley.
Television programs first received awards in 1948. Early television winners include Howdy Doody, The Ed Sullivan Show and Edward R. Murrow’s See It Now series. Recent winners include The Colbert Report, Wonders of the Solar System, The Moth Radio Hour, Bhutto, C-SPAN Video Library, Parks and Recreation, and Real Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian. Cable television was first recognized in 1981 when Home Box Office and Ms. magazine won for She’s Nobody’s Baby: A History of American Women in the 20th Century.
Personal Peabody Award winners over the years have included Rod Serling, Walter Cronkite, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Moyers, Christiane Amanpour, and Live Aid-organizer Bob Geldof.
Today the George Foster Peabody Awards are often cited as the most selective and prestigious in electronic media. Each year, from more than one thousand entries, the Peabody Board selects the most outstanding works by unanimous vote. Though there is no set number of awards, no more than 38 have ever been presented in a single year.