Ed McMahon (1923 - 2009)

Posted: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 by Travis Cody in

Ed McMahon died yesterday. He was 86.

Mr McMahon was a Marine fighter pilot during World War II. He was also an instructor pilot and a test pilot for a time. He was in the Reserves after WWII until he was called back to serve in Korea where he flew 85 missions in O-1E Bird Dogs. These are unarmed tactical air control aircraft that fly spotting missions for artillery. He retired as a Colonel in the Reserves in 1966. Mr McMahon eventually was commissioned Brigadier General in the California Air National Guard.

Mr McMahon is probably best known as Johnny Carson's "sidekick" for 30 years. We all know the "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Johnny" introduction.

He was also the host of Star Search for 12 years, as well as the presenter and spokesperson for American Family Publishers sweepstakes. For many years he may have been as synonymous with Budweiser beer as the Clydesdale horses.

I'll remember watching him every Labor Day as the co-host of the Muscular Distrophy Association telethon. He worked with Jerry Lewis in front of the camera for 41 years. Mr McMahon was the one who introduced the corporate sponsors, and interrupted Jerry often during the last few hours of the show as the millions piled up. He often walked over in the last hour to remind Jerry of the last year's total, before calling for that final timpani and the rolling of Jerry's coveted $1 more than the previous year.

Mr McMahon's passing really hit me hard yesterday. Jerry Lewis, Ed McMahon, and the telethon have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mom taught me that honor is in the act of service rather than the type of service. The telethon reinforced that lesson, and provided the first place where I could learn to serve. And when my choice to serve as a Marine was lost, I had the telethon to remind me that I could still make a difference.

Mr Lewis, MDA national chairman, said yesterday, "Ed was a dear, dear friend. We were always making jokes, cracking each other up. He cared deeply about people with muscle diseases. On the Telethon, he was my right-hand man – it’s hard to imagine doing the show without him. Ed also performed many services for MDA behind the scenes. Of the thousands of celebrities who’ve helped ‘my kids’ during the last 50-plus years, none has given more, and given more gladly, than Ed McMahon."

Edward Leo Peter "Ed" McMahon, Jr. (6 March 1923 – 23 June 2009)
Semper Fi, Mac
Thank you for your service, Sir


  1. Anonymous says:

    May he rest in peace. Nice tribute Trav..

  1. It's hard to imagine that 6'-4" frame fitting into an OE-1 Bird Dog, which, by the way, is little more than a single engine Piper Cub, that many people first learn to fly.
    It seems that everyone who knew Ed, loved him. He just had that kind of personality. He hand a knack for being a "right-hand man", which is a talent that few people posses in this "me first" world that we now live. The world was a little better place because of Ed McMahon, and it will be a little worse for his passing.

  1. I love hearing about his Marine career. Ever since the news story about the senior citizen who killed a mugger in self-defence in Costa Rica a few years ago (one of three attackers) - because the senior was not just any senior, he was a Marine - I love thinking about all the similar men out there. They may look like any other old guy, but they're not.

    Just like Ed McMahon.

  1. Cheesy says:

    I know Ed will grin at this.. but...

    Who the heck is going to bring me my great big check now? I will miss him.

  1. I loved the Tonight show with Johnny and Ed.

    all of the interviews yesterday mentioned his service...and what a true gentleman he was.

  1. barb says:

    Ed was one of my favorites. Back in the day, I never missed The Johnny Carson Show. I still can't believe what that show has morphed into.. Ack.

    Well, perhaps Ed is once again handing Carnac a pile of envelopes as I type this...

  1. It was sad to hear of his death. I didn't know much about his history.

  1. Jeni says:

    I've yet to see any two people who worked together as well as Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon did. Both greats, both now gone.
    Very good post, Trav.

  1. Akelamalu says:

    It's always sad when a much admired celebrity passes. Nice tribute Trav.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great tribute Travis! We'll miss him!

  1. Anndi says:

    You did good, bro. This is a wonderful tribute for a man I know you appreciated so very much.


  1. well done, trav....

    rip, ed :'(

  1. I always loved his spirit and wit.
    Thanks for posting this tribute. Very nice.

  1. Ed was a class act. I imagine he & Johnny entertaining angels now...