The composer probably had no idea that he had just done something historic.
On May 22, 1962 -- 57 years ago this week -- Richard Rodgers became the first person to win all four of the major entertainment awards: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. He achieved the feat when he won for outstanding music composition for a series for ABC's Winston Churchill -- The Valiant Years at the 14th Emmy Awards. Bob Newhart hosted the show, which was held at the Hollywood Palladium.
Rodgers probably had no idea that he had just done something historic. The Grammys had first been presented just three years earlier -- in May 1959 -- so the concept of sweeping all four of these awards didn't seem momentous. That would only come when the Grammys established themselves as a co-equal of their older award siblings, which didn't really happen until the Grammys became a live telecast in 1971. By the time Rodgers died in December 1979, two more people -- actress Helen Hayes and actress/singer Rita Moreno -- had completed their EGOTs. But even then it wasn't the focus of nearly as much media fascination as it is today. (Media interest intensified after 1984, when actor Philip Michael Thomas coined the clever EGOT acronym.)
Rodgers won his first EGOT-qualifying award, the Oscar, in March 1946 for composing the serene ballad "It Might as Well Be Spring" for the movie State Fair. He won his first three Tonys in April 1950 for South Pacific, taking best musical, best original score and producer (musical). He won his first Grammy in April 1961 for The Sound of Music. It won best show album (original cast). All three were of these projects were collaborations with his long-time partner, Oscar Hammerstein II.