John Walsh

John Walsh Headshot

Host

Birth Date: December 26, 1945

Age: 78 years old

Birth Place: Auburn, New York

Children: Callahan Walsh

A hard-nosed and determined presence on network television for over two decades, John Walsh was the host of the long-running "America's Most Wanted" (Fox, 1988-2011; Lifetime, 2011-12), which helped to track down missing criminals and children. It was a job Walsh came to not by choice but through tragedy: his only son, Adam, was abducted and found murdered in 1981. Because of this incomprehensible loss, Walsh and his wife, Reve, became tireless advocates for children's rights, including the passage of the Missing Children's Act of 1982 and the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2008. His work with "America's Most Wanted" resulted in the capture of over 1,000 fugitives from justice. Walsh's work in assisting law enforcement and government officials, as well as families across America, made him a successful and respected public advocacy figure.

Born John Edward Walsh in Auburn, NY on Dec. 26, 1945, he was raised in a Catholic home, but rebelled against his upbringing as a teen. Eventually, he settled down to study at the University of Buffalo and find work in hotel management. He married his girlfriend, Reve Drew, shortly after college, and a son, Adam John Walsh, was born on Nov. 14, 1974. Walsh and his family eventually relocated to Florida, where he was a partner in a hotel management company in Hollywood.

On July 27, 1981, Reve Walsh left six-year-old Adam in the toy department of a local Sears department store while she shopped for a lamp. She returned to find her son missing; a report later showed that he had been told to leave the store by an inexperienced security guard who had assumed that he was part of a group of children who had been involved in a fight. Adam was never seen alive again. The largest manhunt in the history of the state of Florida was launched to find the boy, but only his severed head was discovered two weeks later at Vero Beach, a hundred miles away from Hollywood. A post mortem autopsy showed that he had died of asphyxiation before the grisly mutilation.

An agonizing 27-year investigation followed, highlighted by the loss of key evidence by the Hollywood Police Department and allegations of involvement by notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. The crime was eventually traced to Ottis Toole, a deranged drifter who had reportedly assisted the infamous murderer Henry Lee Lucas in numerous atrocities. Toole was also a pathological liar, and over the course of two decades, would admit to and recant his involvement in Adam's death before his own passing in 1996.

Though the Hollywood Police Department would declare the case closed and Toole the culprit in 2008, John and Reve Walsh were left with only a supposition as to the true nature of their son's death. More importantly, they were never able to claim his remains.

While simultaneously grieving for his son and celebrating the arrival of Meghan, the first of two daughters, in 1982, Walsh and his wife decided to pour their energy into legislation that would help to prevent the same sort of tragedy that had befallen their family.

Their efforts eventually led to the creation of the Missing Children Act of 1982 and the Missing Children's Assistance Act of 1984. The former authorized the Attorney General to collect and exchange information that would assist in the location of missing persons, including children, while the latter established a national toll-free hotline for missing children, which was maintained at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The bereaved couple also established the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center, which was dedicated to legislative reform in the areas of missing and exploited children. The Center was eventually merged with the National Center, and Walsh was named to its Board of Directors. By the late 1980s, Walsh and the Center had also established Code Adam, a child safety program designed to assist children found missing in large businesses and department stores.

In 1983, the Adam Walsh case served as the basis for "Adam" (NBC, 1983), a TV-movie with Daniel J. Travanti as Walsh and JoBeth Williams as Reve. The broadcast concluded with a roll call of missing children, 65 of whom were found after the original screening and the first broadcast of "Adam: His Song Continues" (NBC, 1986), which followed the couple's efforts after the death of their son. Two years later, Walsh himself was on television weekly as the host of "America's Most Wanted," which broadcast information about dangerous fugitives and criminals on the run, as well as missing children. Within four days of its first show, a fugitive on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list was brought to justice, helping to establish the program as a direct and vital link between the public and law enforcement.

"America's Most Wanted" eventually contributed to the capture of over 1,000 criminals, including the notorious Texas Seven and the kidnappers of Elizabeth Smart. For his efforts, Walsh was recognized on numerous occasions, including the U.S. Marshals and FBI's Man of the Year; the latter of which is the highest civilian award. He was also the only private citizen to receive special recognition by the U.S. Attorney General, and assisted Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in relating news about the Oklahoma City bombing and September 11, 2001 attacks. From 2007 to 2010, Walsh also served as the show's producer.

Walsh's increased profile allowed him to address the subject of child safety and legislative reform from a wide variety of platforms. He received a 1995 Emmy nomination for "Smart Kids" (Fox, 1995), a primetime special with Queen Latifah, and published Tears of Rage: From Grieving Father to Crusader for Justice, a best-selling autobiography. From 2002 to 2004, Walsh hosted his own syndicated talk show, "The John Walsh Show," which tackled the personal problems of everyday Americans. Walsh even gently spoofed his flinty screen image by appearing as himself in such comedies as "Wrongfully Accused" (1998).

In 2006, intense lobbying by the Walsh and his wife, along with other parents of murdered children, resulted in the passage of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which required serious sex offenders to update their whereabouts every three months for the remainder of their lifetime. The Act, which was signed into law on the 25th anniversary of Adam's death, also established a national sex offender registry.

That same year, Walsh generated considerable news in the entertainment press for comments he made during a summer press tour. Among his statements were suggestions that chips be implanted into the rectums of sex offenders that would explode if they exited their permitted radius, and that pedophiles should be handed over to the general population in jails in order to receive their own abuse. Walsh later dismissed these comments as poorly worded jokes.

In 2008, Walsh opened the Museum of Crime and Punishment in his hometown of Washington, D.C. He was co-owner of the establishment, which traced the history of crime studies and the penal system in America. The location also served as the studio for "America's Most Wanted."

Credits

In Pursuit With John Walsh: Captured

Host
Show
2022

In Pursuit: Hot On The Trail

Self
Show
2022

GhostsStream

Guest Star
Elderly Man - Ghost
Series
2021
96%

America's Most WantedStream

Executive Producer
Series
2021

America's Most WantedStream

Host
Series
2021

Tamron Hall

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Talk
2019

In Pursuit With John WalshStream

Host
Reality
2019

Access Live

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Show
2017

The Hunt With John Walsh

Host
Show
2014

The Hunt With John Walsh

Executive Producer
Show
2014

The Hunt With John Walsh

Host
Show
2014

Who Took Johnny

Actor
Movie
2014

Cold JusticeStream

Host
Reality
2013

Katie

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Talk
2012

America's Most Wanted: World's Most Wanted Special Edition

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Show
2012

America's Most Wanted: Crimes of Passion Special Edition

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Show
2012

CBS This Morning

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Show
2012

She Made Them Do ItStream

Self
Movie
2012

America's Most Wanted: U.S. Marshals Special Edition

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Show
2011

America's Most Wanted: 50 Fugitives 50 States Special Edition

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Show
2011

Access Hollywood Live

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Show
2010

The Dr. Oz Show

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Talk
2009

The Wendy Williams Show

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Talk
2008

My Generation

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Show
2008

The Morning Show With Mike & Juliet

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Show
2007

Prison BreakStream

Guest Star
Series
2005
61%

Anderson Cooper 360

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News
2003

The John Walsh Show

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Show
2002

The Lone Gunmen

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Series
2001
38%

Live With Regis and Kelly

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Show
2001

The Fugitive

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Show
2000

The Write Stuff

Contestant
Show
1998

The Write Stuff

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Show
1998

Safety Patrol

Self
Movie
1998

The ViewStream

Guest
Talk
1997

America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back

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Show
1996

Access Hollywood

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News
1996

If Looks Could Kill: From the Files of America's Most Wanted

Self
Movie
1996

Jesuit Joe

Actor
Captain Fox
Movie
1991

CopsStream

Guest Star
Reality
1989

America's Most WantedStream

Executive Producer
Series
1988

America's Most WantedStream

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Series
1988

Good Morning America

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News
1975

The WaltonsStream

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Series
1972

Today

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News
1952

News aboutJohn Walsh