In the 1960s, Smith retreated from the TV spotlight and bought three radio stations. In 1970, a student at the University of Pennsylvania asked him to bring Howdy Doody to the school and do a show. Over the next six years, Smith and his famous sidekick made hundreds of appearances across the country. Smith got his start on the radio and his nickname in his hometown, Buffalo, N.Y. In 1947, he was working in radio when NBC was looking for someone to be host of a children's television show. That was the birth of "The Howdy Doody Show."
Buffalo Bob Smith -- born Robert E. Smith -- died at his North Carolina home Thursday of lung cancer. He was 80. But to millions of baby boomers, the genial cowboy-suited host of "The Howdy Doody Show" will never pass away. Even though the NBC show went off the air in 1960 after 13 seasons and more than 2,500 shows, Buffalo Bob and the redheaded, freckle-faced marionette who loved to tease him remain an indelible memory from the Golden Age of TV. "No one knows how hard we worked all those years," Smith told PEOPLE in 1987. "Live TV is the most difficult thing to do in the world. You're on the spot all the time." In addition to his wife of more than 57 years, Mildred, Smith is survived by sons Robin, Ronald and Christopher and three grandchildren.