Former president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Henry Rieger passed away Wednesday of old age in Oceanside, Calif. at the age of 95.
For more than 20 years from the 1940s-’60s, Rieger served as bureau chief for United Press International (UPI) in various cities, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco and New York. In 1953 he took a leave of absence from UPI to serve as press attaché for the U.S. Consul General in Singapore. He also briefly headed up press and publicity for the Southern California Gas Company.
In 1965, he began a 15-year run as West Coast director of press and publicity for the NBC Television Network promoting such popular TV programs as Bonanza, I Spy, Star Trek, Laugh In, Sanford and Son and The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. He traveled overseas with Bob Hope when the famed comic entertained US troops.
After leaving NBC in 1979 to operate his own PR firm, he became the West Coast PR representative for the then fledgling ESPN, a relationship he maintained until his death. He also served the Television Academy for 40 years, first as president of the Hollywood Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS), then as president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and as editor and publisher of Emmy Magazine, the publication he created for the organization. In 1994 he was honored with the Television Academy’s Syd Cassyd Award in recognition of his long and distinguished service.
“Hank Rieger worked tirelessly for many years on behalf of the television academy,” said Television Academy chairman and chief executive officer Bruce Rosenblum. “He believed in The Academy’s ability to have a positive impact on the entire entertainment industry, and we are deeply grateful for all he contributed.”
In the late 1960s and ’70s, Rieger served as vice president of the Special Olympics in California. He was part of the organizing committee to bring the 1984 Summer Olympics to Los Angeles.
Rieger was born on Sept. 20, 1918, in Kansas City, MO but grew up in Phoenix. He attended the University of Arizona and the University of Southern California, where he later became an adjunct faculty member in the School of Journalism.
In World War II, he served in the Army and was assigned to intelligence and counter-intelligence in the Pacific. Beginning as a Private, Rieger left the military as a Major.
His wife of 65 years, Deborah Rieger, died last year. He is survived by his sister Ruth Lepick, his niece Julie Burns, and his cousins JoAnn St. Claire, Ann Marie Carr and Mary Weeks.
Rieger was a 32 Degree Scottish Rite Freemason and a member of Glendale Lodge No. 368 F&AM as well as a member of the Al Malaikah Shriners, Los Angeles.