Jerry Springer, Talk Show Icon and Former Cincinnati Politician, Dead at 79

The former Cincinnati mayor who broke new ground with his often shocking daytime talk show died at his Chicago home Thursday.

Jerry Springer, the Cincinnati political figure, former mayor, news anchor, and nationally-syndicated talk show host known for his humor and penchant for inviting outrageous guests onto his controversial daytime program, has died at age 79.

Springer was born in London in 1944 to two Jewish parents fleeing Nazi Germany. The family later immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Queens, New York, and Springer graduated both Tulane University and Northwestern Law School and briefly worked on Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign.

Jerry Springer on the cover of Cincinnati Magazine’s August 1980 issue.

Springer moved to Cincinnati to work for law firm Frost & Jacobs (now Frost Brown Todd) in 1969. Though he captured nearly 45 percent of the vote, he lost his first Congressional bid in 1970 before he was elected to Cincinnati City Council as a Democrat the following year.

Springer resigned from council in 1974 after testifying in federal court that he engaged in acts of prostitution at a Kentucky “health club” raided by the FBI. As evidence, he turned over canceled checks written to two prostitutes, which became political fodder for his opponents and later the subject of one of his most remembered gubernatorial campaign ads. He ran for council again as an independent and won back his seat in a landslide in 1975. Two years later at age 33, Springer served as Cincinnati’s 56th mayor, the youngest in the city’s history, as the council’s top vote-getter. In 1982, Springer ran for Ohio governor but finished last in the Democratic primary.

Jerry Springer appeared on Cincinnati Magazine’s September 2003 cover.

Photograph by Ryan Kurtz

Later that year, Springer joined WLWT as a news anchor and in 1991 began hosting his own daytime talk show The Jerry Springer Show. He left Cincinnati for Chicago in 1993, and with a new tabloid spin, the show became a smash hit with viewers for covering outlandish and shockingly sensational topics ranging from relationships and sex to family squabbles and the taboos surrounding them. At one point, Springer overtook Oprah Winfrey as the number one talk show in the U.S. and the fastest-growing syndicated show ever. Though the show ended in 2018 after nearly 5,000 episodes, The Jerry Springer Show continues to be broadcast in syndication in dozens of countries and in multiple languages. He ended each episode with his trademark goodbye: “‘Til next time, take care of yourselves and each other.”

More recently, Springer hosted the Jerry Springer Podcast and had a three-year stint on the reality courtroom show Judge Jerry. Springer also recently launched a weekly radio program on WMKV FM 89.3 with his cohost and podcast partner Jene Galvin featuring their favorite stories and forgotten folk songs from the 1950s and ’60s.

Following a pancreatic cancer diagnosis a few months prior, Springer passed away peacefully at his home in Chicago on April 27, 2023, according to a statement from family spokesperson Galvin.

‘Til next time, Jerry, take care of yourself.

Read more Cincinnati Magazine coverage of Jerry Springer through the years: 

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