The question: “How much money did the first Jeopardy! champion win?”
It seems like small potatoes now, but in 1964, $345 got North Carolina’s Mary Eubanks — inaugural winner of the beloved game show — admission into a host of Broadway shows. More important, when the Candor native won the Jeopardy! debut on March 30, 1964, her victory earned her a fun footnote in game-show history.
photograph by SHAUNL/E+/GETTY IMAGES
“It’s been a great thing in my life,” says Eubanks, now 84 and living in Greensboro. “Everyone has made a big to-do about it.”
Ironically, Eubanks, who lived in New York City at the time, was waiting in line for tickets to see The Price Is Right when a man approached and asked if she’d like to audition for a new game show called Jeopardy!. She hesitantly agreed, and more than a week later, she learned that she’d been chosen for the first taping.
“I think they liked my Southern accent,” Eubanks says.
Eubanks was no naive Southerner, though. A former schoolteacher, she held her own throughout the show. During “Final Jeopardy,” she recognized “Good night, sweet prince” as a farewell uttered to Hamlet in Shakespeare’s famous play, and she won the game. Her two opponents finished with $190 and $90, respectively.
Eubanks lost in her second appearance on the show, but it didn’t matter. She’d already staked her claim to fame — one she’ll never be in jeopardy of losing.
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