Linkletter was born Gordon Arthur Kelly in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. In his autobiography, Confessions of a Happy Man (1960), he revealed that he had had no contact with his natural parents or his sister or two brothers since he was abandoned when only a few weeks old. He was adopted by Mary (née Metzler) and Fulton John Linkletter, an evangelical preacher. Later moving to the United States, he graduated from San Diego State University (SDSU) where he was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. While he attended San Diego State, he played for the basketball team, and swam for the swim team. He had previously planned to attend Springfield College, but did not for financial reasons. He later served for many years as a trustee at Springfield College, and donated money to build the swim center named in his honor.
In 1963, Linkletter became the endorser and spokesman for Milton Bradley's Game of Life. His picture appeared on the box with the statement "I Heartily Endorse This Game", and also on the $100,000 bills featured in the game.
In 2005, at the age of 93, he opened the Happiest Homecoming on Earth celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of Disneyland. Half a century earlier, he commentated on the opening day celebrations in 1955. For this, he was named a Disney Legend in 2005.
Linkletter was once a spokesman for National Home Life, an insurance company. A Republican, he became a political organizer and a spokesman for the United Seniors Association, now known as USA Next, an alternative to the AARP. He was also a member of Pepperdine University's Board of Regents. He received a lifetime achievement Daytime Emmy award in 2003. Also, he was recently a member of the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation (the council ended in November 2008).
Linkletter has received honorary degrees from a number of universities, including Pepperdine University and the University of Prince Edward Island.
In early 2008, Linkletter suffered a mild stroke.
Art Linkletter died on May 26, 2010 at his home in Bel-Air, California. He will be buried in Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery.
Linkletter had one of the longest marriages of any celebrity in America (it lasted for 74.5 years, until his death). He married Lois Foerster on November 25, 1935, and they had five children: Arthur Jack (known as Jack Linkletter, a TV host), Dawn, Robert, Sharon, and Diane. He was also a good friend of Walt Disney.
Linkletter survived three of his five children. He lost two of his children to violent deaths. His 20-year-old daughter, Diane Linkletter, died on October 4, 1969, by jumping out of her sixth-floor kitchen window. Linkletter claimed that she committed suicide because she was on, or having a flashback from, an LSD trip, but toxicology tests done after the incident detected no signs of LSD use, and it is quite likely that the drug played no part in her suicide. Linkletter spoke out against drugs to prevent children from straying into a drug habit. His record, We Love You, Call Collect, recorded before her death, featured a discussion about permissiveness in modern society. It featured a rebuttal by Diane, called Dear Mom and Dad. The record won a 1970 Grammy award for the "Best Spoken Word Recording".
His son Robert died in an automobile accident on September 12, 1980.
His son (Arthur) Jack Linkletter, (November 20, 1937(1937-11-20)–December 18, 2007 (aged 70)), died from lymphoma.
We will never forget you Mr. Linkletter, God speed! VN8