While many of us associate Jeopardy! with Alex Trebek, who began hosting the widely beloved competitive game series back in 1978, the first iteration of the series was hosted by the late Art Fleming, who brought the show to life 56 years ago on March 30, 1964. And even though the show went a little differently back then, the first episode was absolutely epic nonetheless.
As one might expect, the first-ever Jeopardy! winner took home significantly less cash than modern-day winners, however, the pilot winner went down in history all the same. Stay tuned for everything we know about the legendary Mary Eubanks, aka the first-ever winner of Jeopardy!.
Who was Mary Eubanks? She will forever go down in 'Jeopardy!' history.
Although Ken Jennings is one of the biggest names to walk away from Jeopardy!, Mrs. Mary Eubanks made history on the popular game show as the very first winner during the series' pilot episode. According to Quiz Club, she was a self-proclaimed "housewife" from Candor, N.C., who ended up triumphantly taking home a whopping $345 by offering the correct answer of “Who is Hamlet?” in response to the prompt "'Good night, sweet prince’ was originally said to him."
Back then, however, the rules of the show were a little different, because it enabled every contestant to walk away with the amount of money they earned during the game, regardless if they ended up winning or not. So, Mary wasn't the only one to leave with a pocket full of cash that day. Honestly, it made the concept of playing a little more enticing, but adding higher stakes have certainly made the show more exciting to watch.
Art Fleming's iteration of 'Jeopardy!' ran until 1975, when it was taken off the air for the first time.
Art ended up sticking with Jeopardy! for 11 years, until it was taken off the air in 1975, and at the time, it seemed as though it had ended for good. However, it was resurrected by the original creator, Merv Griffin, who had moved onto creating Wheel of Fortune, according to Emmys.com. At the time, the executives at King World, the show's distribution company, asked if Merv had another series for "companion syndication" that could be sold together, and Merv decided to revive Jeopardy! in 1978.
Merv ultimately decided to hire Alex Trebek as the game show's new host, and Jay Stewart as the announcer on the pilot. Shortly after, however, Johnny Gilbert took over as the announcer. Alex Trebek still hosts the popular game show after 42 years, and he says he will continue working until his contract ends, despite his ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer.
Jeopardy is one of the longest running series out there, and it goes without saying the legendary Mary Eubanks is an important part of the game show's history. And while Art Fleming's iteration kicked off the show in the greatest way possible, Alex Trebek certainly made the series what it is today.