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Paul Harvey, the radio legend whose clipped, folksy deliveries resonated on the radio airwaves for more than 50 years, has died.
Harvey died Saturday at a hospital in Phoenix, where he had a winter home, a spokesman for ABC Radio Networks said. The cause of death was not immediately available. He was 90.
Harvey was an institution, whose twice daily reports, “News and Comment,” as well as his afternoon program, “The Rest of the Story,” paved the way for such radio news commentators and pundits as Rush Limbaugh and Don Imus.
His signature greeting, “Hello, Americans,” has been widely recognizable since the days of Dwight Eisenhower. Harvey’s delivery was so fluid and engaging that news sometimes ran straight into commercial, punctuated by his clipped bark: “Page 2.”
His one-man network, Paul Harvey News, encompassed more than 1,200 radio stations, including 400 armed Forces Network stations, with his broadcasts transmitted Monday-Saturday. His columns appeared in about 300 newspapers. Twice a day, his “News and Comment” was streamed on the Web.
In 2000, at age 82, he signed a new 10-year contract with ABC Radio Networks. He was out of commission during 2001, suffering from a virus. During his recovery, guest-hosts filled in for him, including Bill O’Reilly, reflective of Harvey’s right-leaning philosophies.
Harvey 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,” Paul Harvey Jr. “So in the past year, an industry has lost its godparents, and today millions have lost a friend.”
Former President George W. Bush remembered Harvey as a “friendly and familiar voice in the lives of millions of Americans.”
“His commentary entertained, enlightened, and informed,” Bush said. “Laura and I are pleased to have known this fine man, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Harvey was elected to the National Assn. of Broadcasters’ Radio Hall of Fame and was the recipient of 11 Freedom Foundation Awards. He was a frequent nominee of the Gallup Poll’s list of America’s Most Admired Men. In 2005, Harvey was one of 14 notables chosen as recipients of the presidential Medal of Freedom.
Harvey first went national in 1951 from Chicago, where his Midwestern vantage and homespun values, appeared to listeners. Adept at interlacing commercials with his news commentary, Between his news stories — centered on ordinary Americans — he peddled liver pills, spark plugs, Bose Wave Radio and kitchen utensils. He also is credited with inventing or popularizing such terms as “skyjacker,” “Reaganomics” and “guesstimate.”
“Paul Harvey was one of the most gifted and beloved broadcasters in our nation’s history,” ABC Radio Networks President Jim Robinson said. “We will miss our dear friend tremendously and are grateful for the many years we were so fortunate to have known him.”
An astute observer and analyst of what troubled and concerned Middle Americans, Harvey could encapsulate contemporary or philosophical issues into plain meat-and-potatoes servings that made perfect common sense to the average American. He punctured sham — government programs gone wacky — with anecdotal doses of homespun wisdom. His folksy manner and shrewd mix of stories, including the oddities of everyday life, was a palatable early-morning or noontime snippet of reality/sanity for Middle Americans. In addition, he had a nationally syndicated newspaper column that ran three times a week.
Paul Harvey was born Sept. 4, 1918, in Tulsa, Okla. He began work in radio while still in high school, and, later, when attending the University of Tulsa, he worked as an announcer and program director at KVOO.
Following graduation, he had various radio stints around the Midwest, culminating as director of special events at KXOK in St. Louis, where he also worked as a roving reporter. There, he met Washington University graduate student Lynne Cooper; they were married in 1940.
Harvey moved to Hawaii that same year, covering the U.S. Navy. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he enlisted into the Army Air Corps and served until 1944. Following his discharge, Harvey moved to Chicago, where he quickly became the most listened-to broadcaster in the Windy City. While working at the AFC affiliate WENR-AM, he began his “News and Comment” broadcast.
Perhaps Harvey’s most famous broadcast came in 1970, when he announced his opposition to President Nixon’s expansion of the war. “Mr. President, I love you … but you’re wrong,” Harvey said, shocking his listeners and drawing a barrage of letters and phone calls, including one from the White House.
In 1976, Harvey began broadcasting his anecdotal descriptions of the lives of famous people. “The Rest of the Story” started chronologically, with the person’s identity revealed at the end. The stories were an attempt to capture “the heartbeats behind the headlines.” Much of the research and writing was done by his son.
A popular personality and public speaker, Harvey was in constant demand at conventions and corporate meetings. His broadcasts and columns have been reprinted in the Congressional Record more than those of any other commentator.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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