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True Stories of Amazing People and Places in Texas

Famous People from Lubbock County Texas
Helen Wagner
Helen Wagner
Helen Wagner was born on September 3, 1918 in Lubbock, Texas to Dr. Charles Wagner and Janette Wagner. Helen played the matriarch, Nancy Hughes on the soap opera As the World Turns from its debut on April 2, 1956, until her death and was acknowledged by the Guinness World Records for having the longest run in a single role on television, a position she held until 2010.

In fact, Wagner spoke the show's very first line, "Good morning, dear," and would go on to witness its many broadcast transformations. As The World Turns premiered as a 30-minute program and was the first soap opera, along with The Edge of Night, to do so. Up until that time, all soaps ran for only 15 minutes. Advertisers were skeptical at first, finding it hard to believe that the average housewife had the time to tune to one soap opera for a half-hour. The show would hit ratings gold within three years. After a number of years of broadcasting live and in black-and-white, it would eventually go on to air on tape and in color and expand to a full hour.

Wagner took some breaks from the role, both voluntary and involuntary. After six months with the show, creator Irna Phillips fired her because she did not favor the way Wagner poured coffee. After overwhelming pressure to hire her back, Phillips did so begrudgingly.

Wagner would leave of her own accord in the early 1980s. Dissatisfied with then-producer Mary-Ellis Bunim's decision to showcase the Hughes family less, Wagner and co-star Don MacLaughlin walked away from the show after vocal dissent in the press. With As The World Turns having fallen from the top spot in the Nielsen TV ratings, Bunim wanted to shift the show's focus to the younger generation. Wagner eventually returned to the role in 1985 and in 1986 she and an ailing MacLaughlin, who played her on-screen husband, were prominently featured in the show's 30th anniversary episode. The storyline had their characters celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

Five months after CBS announced on December 9, 2009, that it was cancelling the show after 54 years on the air. Helen Wagner died on May 1, 2010 from undisclosed causes. Many fans had hoped that Wagner would be able to close the series with the line "Good night, dear," just as she had uttered "Good morning, dear" as the first line of the program back in 1956. The last episode was taped on June 23, 2010, and aired on September 17, 2010. Although Wagner played Nancy for more than 50 years, she never won a Daytime Emmy Award for her work. She was presented with a "Lifetime Achievement" Emmy in May 2004.

Wagner was inducted into the Lubbock Walk of Fame in 2002. She's one of many Amazing People from Lubbock County and one of the Famous Actors You never Knew Came from West Texas


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