Tony Awards Founded by Brock Pemberton


Founded in 1947, the Tony Awards is an annual award show recognizing American Theatrical productions. The award was founded in 1947 by a committee of the American Theatre Wing (ATW) headed by Brock Pemberton, Kansas 1908. The Tony Awards are the equivalent of the Emmy Awards for television, the Grammy Awards for music, and the Academy Awards for film, and a person who has won all four is said to have won the “EGOT.”

Brother Brock Pemberton had theatrical credits in producing, directing, and writing reviews for two New York newspapers. He became a theater producer and director in 1920, after working under director Arthur Hopkins, and worked on several Broadway shows between 1923 and 1950, including Mister PittThe LadderStrictly DishonorableCeiling ZeroMr. Barry’s Etchings, and Harvey, which become a film starring Jimmy Stewart.

During the Broadway production of The Ladder, Pemberton connected with Antoinette Perry, an actress in the show. Perry and Pemberton became business partners, and she began directing his plays. Perry co-founded the ATW, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting education in theatre. Pemberton served on the board. When Perry died in 1946, Pemberton suggested to the ATW that they create an award in honor of her memory. Named after Antoinette “Tony” Perry, the first Tony Awards was on April 6, 1947, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. Prizes were jewelry and cigarette lighters for women and money clips for men. It was not until the third awards ceremony in 1949 that the first Tony medallion, featuring the comedy and tragedy masks, was given to award winners.

Months after Pemberton’s death in 1950, a Tony Award was given in his name to recognize his role as the founder and the original chairman of the Tony Awards.