Adam Walsh’s family still celebrates his birthday every year. The boy was only 6 years old when he was abducted and murdered in 1981. “I was lucky to have that little boy for six years,” his father, John Walsh, exclusively told Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “He was a beautiful little boy. He made me a better man.”

To honor his son’s legacy, John became a victims’ rights advocate and hosted the reality show America’s Most Wanted from 1988 until 2012. The show was credited with catching nearly 1,500 dangerous fugitives. Now, John’s coming out of retirement to host a new series, In Pursuit, and he’s teaming up with his 34-year-old son, Callahan, who cohosts the show.

John Walsh, father of Adam Walsh who was abducted and murdered in 1981, speaks at a press conference
Getty Images

“I grew up with my parents telling me, ‘We need to make sure that your brother Adam didn’t die in vain,’” Callahan exclusively told Closer at a recent event for In Pursuit at the Paley Center for Media in NYC. “We try to do that every day.”

John went through dark times after Adam was kidnapped at a Sears store in Hollywood, Florida. “When he was found dead, I spiraled into hell,” John recalled. “I was suicidal. I kept saying, ‘I can’t stand this pain. I need to get off this planet.'”

But he drew on an inner strength he had learned from his father, a decorated World War II bomber pilot who died at age 54. “On his deathbed, he told me, ‘Evil prevails when good men do nothing,'” John remembered. That’s when he realized he needed to something about it. “Good men need to hunt down the bad men,” the host learned from his father, whom he said “was a great role model” to him.

John Walsh with wife Reve and childern Megan and Callahan
John Walsh with wife, Revé, and children, Megan and Callahan. Getty Images

John and his wife of 47 years, Revé, cofounded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which has assisted in recovering more than 280,000 kids. And with America’s Most Wanted, “I watched my father saddle up every week and catch some of the worst criminals this nation has,” Callahan said. “I understood from an early age that my parents fight back.”

That battle continues with In Pursuit, which asks viewers to share tips and help track down fugitives from the law. “I’m asking people to do what I’ve done all my life,” John said. “We want justice.”

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