Paul Harvey, Plain-Spoken Radio Pioneer, Dies at 90
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: February 28, 2009
CHICAGO (AP) — Paul Harvey, the news commentator and talk-radio pioneer whose staccato style made him one of the nation’s most familiar voices, died Saturday in Arizona, according to ABC Radio Networks. He was 90.
Mr. Harvey died surrounded by family at a hospital in Phoenix, where he had a winter home, said Louis Adams, a spokesman for ABC Radio Networks, where Mr. Harvey worked for more than 50 years. No cause of death was immediately available.
Mr. Harvey had been forced off the air for several months in 2001 because of a virus that weakened a vocal cord. But he returned to work in Chicago and was still active as he passed his 90th birthday. His death comes less than a year after that of his wife and longtime producer, Lynne.
“My father and mother created from thin air what one day became radio and television news,” their only child, Paul Harvey Jr., said in a statement. “So in the past year, an industry has lost its godparents, and today millions have lost a friend.”
Known for his resonant voice and his trademark radio feature called “The Rest of the Story,” Mr. Harvey had been heard nationally since 1951, when he began his “News and Comment” feature for ABC Radio Networks.
He became a heartland icon, delivering news and commentary with a distinctive Midwestern flavor. “Stand by for news!” he would tell listeners.
“Paul Harvey was one of the most gifted and beloved broadcasters in our nation’s history,” James M. Robinson, president of ABC Radio Networks, said in a statement. “We will miss our dear friend tremendously and are grateful for the many years we were so fortunate to have known him.”
In 2005, Mr. Harvey was one of 14 people chosen to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame, as was his wife.
He composed his twice-daily news commentaries from an office in downtown Chicago.
At the peak of his career, Mr. Harvey reached more than 24 million listeners on more than 1,200 radio stations and charged $30,000 to give a speech. His syndicated column was carried by 300 newspapers.
His fans identified with his plain-spoken political commentary, but critics called him out of touch. He was an early supporter of the late Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and was a longtime backer of the Vietnam War.
Perhaps Mr. Harvey’s most famous broadcast was in 1970, when he abandoned that support, announcing his opposition to President Richard M. Nixon’s expansion of the war and urging him to withdraw American forces.
“Mr. President, I love you, but you’re wrong,” Mr. Harvey said, shocking his listeners and drawing a barrage of letters and phone calls, including one from the White House.
In 1976, Mr. Harvey began broadcasting “The Rest of the Story,” his anecdotal descriptions of the lives of famous people. The segments started chronologically, with the person’s identity revealed at the end. The stories were an attempt to capture “the heartbeats behind the headlines.”
Mr. Harvey also blended news with advertising, a line he said he crossed only for products he trusted.
In 2000, at age 82, he signed a 10-year contract with ABC Radio Networks.
Paul Harvey Aurandt was born in Tulsa, Okla. His father, a police officer, was killed when he was a toddler. A high school teacher took note of his distinctive voice and started him on a broadcast career.
While working at KXOK radio in St. Louis, he met Lynne Cooper, a graduate student at Washington University. He proposed on their first date (she said no) and always called her “Angel.” They were married in 1940.
A version of this article appeared in print on March 1, 2009, on page A18 of the New York edition.
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