Born in Stryn, Norway, Inga moved with her family to Washington D.C. in 1930. After time spent as a model and a Washington Times-Herald fashion columnist, Inga made her television debut in 1951 as a talk-show host on WNBW-TV, an NBC affiliate.
It could be said that Inga was a precursor to Oprah. Kuhn was hugely popular with audiences. With “Inga’s Angle,” “Afternoon With Inga,” and “Today with Inga,” — a companion to NBC’s “Today Show” — spanning more than 16 years, she enjoyed the longest run of any pioneering Washington daytime personality.
Inga was known for her resourcefulness and savvy. “The technical crew loved to work my show because we tried everything,” she said in a 1999 article in a Washington Historical Society magazine. “I mean, we had hardly any money at all. I would drag furniture from home if I wanted to make it look good.”
She could move seamlessly from topic to topic, guest to guest. Throughout her career, she interviewed and entertained untold celebrities and dignitaries — from John F. Kennedy to Bette Davis to Arthur Schlesinger. She wrote, directed, produced and marketed her shows herself, along with a small and dedicated crew. Her on-air persona — glamorous, poised, civic-minded and professional — was interchangeable with her real-life roles as wife, mother, sister, grandmother and friend.
After retiring in 1967, Inga volunteered with the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission and helped create Around the World Venture, an organization that promoted U.S. tourism to foreign press and served as a public-relations network for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the White House. Inga was an active member of the National Press Club, Society of American Travel Writers, the Federal Forum of Republican Women and the American Newspaper Women’s Club. She also served on the Inaugural Ball Committees for both presidents Eisenhower and Nixon.
Perhaps most of all, at a time when convention kept women contained if not quiet, Inga was outspoken. She would often say life is what you make it: Work hard and see the places you can go.
Inga’s wings took her far. Next to her family and her career, travel was her passion. In her beloved house, one room holds a map of the world that takes up an entire wall. But more defined and impressive than the outlines of continents and countries are deeply drawn pencil marks. They show Inga’s endless travels, as if connecting faraway people and places with a simple straight line. The point her travels share in common is home. It was the place she loved best. And anyone who knew Inga has to imagine she’s there still. -Brandon Walters
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