Most people know John Walsh as the dedicated host of America's Most Wanted, the man whose groundbreaking television program has helped take down over 1,050 dangerous fugitives and bring home more than 50 missing children in the past 22 years. But it's not the career he envisioned for himself.
John Walsh is known internationally as a crime fighter, victims’ advocate and the host of America's Most Wanted -- the groundbreaking reality program that's helped law enforcement capture more than 1,100 dangerous fugitives and brought home more than 50 missing children since its debut in 1988. He never sought the role, but this has been his life since July 27, 1981 -- the day his only child, Adam, was abducted from a mall near his home in Hollywood, Fla. Adam was found murdered two weeks later.
The case remained unsolved for 27 years. But in December 2008, after a long investigation that was re-opened by the Hollywood Police Department -- and with assistance from dedicated active and retired criminal justice professionals -- Adam's case was finally closed. Ottis Toole -- who'd always been the main suspect -- was undeniably named as the killer of Adam Walsh. Toole -- a drifter with a long criminal record -- died years earlier in prison, while serving time for other crimes. Although the resolution of Adam's case gave John and his family a long-sought opportunity to close this chapter of their lives, the pain of their loss lives on, and always will.
Born in Auburn, N.Y., and educated at the University of Buffalo, John moved to Florida with his wife, Revé, and had been a successful hotel developer before Adam’s tragic murder.
The Walshes' experience showed them that the nation was in desperate need of leadership in the fight to protect children. Out of their pain, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) was created in 1984, after President Ronald Reagan signed the "Missing Children's Assistance Act." The NCMEC is the premier child protection non-profit, providing invaluable resources to parents, children and law enforcement in the United States and internationally. The charity consistently receives an A rating for its spending of more than 90 cents of every dollar raised on programming. The NCMEC's incredible partnerships with the public and private sector demonstrate its respect as an effective non-profit.
NBC's airing of two movies about the Walsh family's story, "Adam" in 1983 and "Adam: His Song Continues" in 1986, woke the nation up to the reality of child abduction and dramatized the incredible heartbreak and resilience of the Walshes. In a bold and courageous move, the network ran a roll call of missing children at the end of the movies, leading to the recovery of 65 children.
A hero to law enforcement, John has been honored numerous times by many local, state and federal agencies. In addition to being named “Man of the Year” by both the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI, John was also made an honorary U.S. Marshal. He is only the third man to receive this honor in the organization's 200-plus-year history.
John's three best-selling books, "Tears of Rage," "No Mercy" and "Public Enemies," tell his family's story and about the toughest AMW cases he's worked on.
Although he's never held political office, John's been the driving force behind major pieces of child protection legislation. This hard work led to him being honored five times by four presidents: Ronald Reagan (twice), George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.
On July 27, 2006 -- 25 years to the day since Adam's abduction -- at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, President George W. Bush signed a new, tough-as-nails law to track and apprehend convicted sex offenders who disappear after their release from prison: The "Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act." July 27 is now a bittersweet day for the Walshes; it's a date that marks the worst day of their lives in 1981, but also a day that brings hope to families who seek justice and answers because of the law named for their son.
John and Revé were blessed with three more children after Adam: Meghan, Callahan and Hayden. John and his wife continue to fight for victims' rights and for justice throughout the United States and wherever children or crime victims are in need.
John Walsh Photo Gallery
John Walsh Press Photos
Adam Walsh Act Becomes Law »
John Walsh: Call On Congress To Fund The Adam Walsh Act »
National Museum Of Crime And Punishment »
The Legacy Of Adam Walsh »
Resources: What To Do If Your Child Goes Missing »
Resources: Protecting Kids and Teens Online »
The Adam Walsh Law: Why We Need It, What It Does »