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Huell Howser, a Tennessee native who documented his adopted state of California better than most, died at age 67. Howser was the legendary host of public broadcasting's "California's Gold," and worked out of Los Angeles for the past 25 years. Ted Chen reports from Hollywood for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2013.
California television personality Huell Howser, known for his affable interview style as he toured some of the state's landmark locations, died Sunday night at age 67, according to KCET.
Howser, the host of TV's "California's Gold", retired from the show at the end of November after nearly two decades on public television stations. Howser died Sunday night from "natural causes," according to KCET.
Ryan Morris, Howser's producer and long-time friend, confirmed he died Sunday night at home after a "long illness."
Howser moved to Los Angeles in 1981. The Tennessee native worked at a television station in Nashville before serving in the Marine Corps.
He worked at WCBS in New York before moving to LA. "California's Gold" became the best known of Howser's magazine-style TV shows about his travels in the state, but he also hosted "Visiting with Huell Howser," "Road Trip with Huell Howser" and other programs.
Howser, who lived in Twenty-Nine Palms and Los Angeles, was known for his friendly style during his behind-the-scene interviews at restaurants, historic sites, schools and other community institutions.
His style was described as "magnificently unslick" by LA Times columnist Howard Rosenberg.
"We operate on the premise that TV isn’t brain surgery. People’s stories are what it’s all about," Howser said in a post on CalGold.com, the website of Huell Howser Productions. "If you have a good story, it doesn’t have to be overproduced. I want our stories to reveal the wonders of the human spirit and the richness of life in California, including its history, people, culture and natural wonders."
Howser's programs were broadcast on KCET in Southern California. A statement on the station's website described Howser as a host who "elevated the simple joys and undiscovered nuggets of living in our great state. He made the magnificence and power of nature seem accessible by bringing it into our living rooms. Most importantly, he reminded us to find the magic and wonderment in our lives every day."
In September 2011, Howser announced that he planned to donate his "California's Gold" episodes to Chapman University in Orange. The donation includes show episodes, papers and memorabilia related to the show.
The items are part of the Huell Howser Archive. Howser selected Chapman University because the school's president, James Doti, sent him a note to apologize after failing to connect with Howser during his visit to Orange.
"That really impressed me -- in this hectic world, to get a personal letter signed by the university president," Howser said of the letter. "That’s the kind of personal contact that resonates with me. It got me thinking about the legacy of my work and how I wanted it to become available to a wider audience."
On Monday afternoon, Chapman University President James L. Doti released the following statement:
"Huell Howser was a beloved California icon, a true original and a truly good man. It has been a real privilege in these past few years to become his friend and to share in his immense enthusiasm for life and for everything around him. He loved California so very much, and above all he loved people: their life stories, their interests, their passions. And, of course, people adored him with equal intensity."