OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Our partners at the Omaha World-Herald say Don Meier, the creator of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" died Saturday at 104.
A University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate and Oshkosh native, Meier paved the way for nature-themed television and reality TV.
Meier and his late wife, Lorena, supported multiple scholarships in the NU system that will continue through the couple's foundation.
Out of Chicago, Meier produced a show called "Zoo Parade" which became his inspiration for wildlife programs in the early '60s. Meier envisioned "Wild Kingdom" taking viewers around the globe to see animals in natural habitats.
UNL Journalism Professor Barney McCoy said Meier's search for corporate sponsorship was denied 84 times before Mutual of Omaha executive V.J. Skutt gave "Wild Kingdom" a green light, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
In January of 1963, "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" debuted on NBC, remaining on television for at least 25 years. The show received Emmy Awards.
Former co-host Jim Fowler, who died in May, said "Wild Kingdom" was one of the first reality TV shows.
Various programs have followed in Meier's footsteps, including networks like Animal Planet which are devoted to wildlife and nature.
Meier passed away at his home in Winnetka, IL.