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Winner of Alex Trebek’s first ‘Jeopardy!’ episode talks about experience

Published: Jan. 7, 2021 at 6:03 PM EST
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WAVERLY, Ohio (WSAZ) - For many people, “Jeopardy!” is appointment television.

Many grab a snack, fall on the couch, and test their knowledge against the contestants, and allow a familiar face in their living rooms.

The near-nightly meeting with Alex Trebek that started more than 36 years ago involved a man from our region.

“It was the grace of God that I ended up on the first show,” said Greg Hopkins, the winner of that episode.

In the early 1980s, Hopkins, a native of Waverly, Ohio, was travelling throughout the Gulf Coast and teaching students about energy science.

Every break he got, he visited his aunt and uncle in California to try to get on a game show, trying over 40 times.

“I didn’t want to get on any games with stars,” Hopkins said, “because if you get on ‘$100,000 Pyramid’ and Betty White screws up, you can’t hate Betty White for the rest of your life.”

But in the spring of 1984, there was a breakthrough with the revival of ‘Jeopardy!’, under a new host.

“Alex (Trebek) interacted with us off-camera,” Hopkins said. He was a class act and the entire production staff were class acts. It’s very touching how courageous he was going back into work every day. Most of us have known people who have gone through chemo and things like that, it’s a debilitating horrible thing. He had a purpose and he was an entertainer to the very core.”

Hopkins won $8,500 on that first episode of “Jeopardy!”. He told us he used his winnings to “marry the woman he couldn’t live without.”

He and his wife, Velvet, now live in Huntsville, Alabama.

Trebek’s final episode will air Friday on WSAZ.

He recorded the episode at the end of October, a little more than a week before he died.

So far, no announcement on who will replace him on a full-time basis. However, all-time champion Ken Jennings will be the first of the fill-in, temporary hosts.

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