CHICAGO (Reuters) - Paul Harvey, who captivated millions of radio listeners daily with his staccato delivery, firmly set opinions and old-fashioned outlook, died on Saturday at the age of 90, ABC News said.
Harvey died at a hospital near his winter home in Phoenix, the network said. No cause of death was immediately available.
He was on the air for more than 60 years, becoming a fixture across the United States in 1951 when he joined ABC Radio.
Working out of Chicago, Harvey started his show each day by barking, “Hello, Americans, this is Paul Harvey! Stand by for news!” and would sign off with a forceful “Paul Harvey ... good day!” In between, he flung out a variety of trademark phrases that listeners came to expect like, “Stay tuned for the rest of the story” and “May I have your undivided for just a moment.”
Harvey’s twice-daily radio broadcasts at one time reached an estimated 22 million listeners who tuned in for his observations, homespun wisdom and opinions on the news.
“I don’t think of myself as a profound journalist,” he told an interviewer. “I think of myself as a professional parade watcher who can’t wait to get out of bed every morning and rush down to the teletypes and pan for gold.”
Harvey also was a marketing powerhouse, interspersing his broadcasts with commercials he narrated. He said he agreed to plug only products he used himself, which meant turning down 10 sponsors for every one he endorsed.
Products that met Harvey’s expectations could almost always count on a surge in sales after he read their commercials.
In 2006, Forbes.com quoted an ABC executive as saying Harvey was bringing in more than 10 percent of the network’s $300 million in advertising billings. The network was so pleased with Harvey’s work that he was given a 10-year, $100 million contract in 2000.
Former President George W. Bush said in a statement that he and his wife, Laura, “are saddened by the death of Paul Harvey. Paul was a friendly and familiar voice in the lives of millions of Americans. His commentary entertained, enlightened, and informed.”
Paul Harvey Aurandt was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on September 14, 1918, the son of a police officer who was killed in the line of duty when Paul was 3.
He was only 14 when he started in radio in 1933 at KVOO-AM, a small Tulsa radio station. He was later a program director there while attending the University of Tulsa and went on to work at stations in Salinas, Kansas, Oklahoma City and St. Louis.
After joining the Army Air Corps for four years, Harvey moved to Chicago, then a major U.S. center of radio broadcasting, and spent his career anchored there. The city honored him by naming a section of a downtown street Paul Harvey Drive.
At one point, more than 1,300 U.S. radio stations and 400 overseas carried his reports. A mix of conservative, liberal and libertarian, Harvey always was an optimist who loved to share a giggle about an oddball event or the little guy who beat the system.
Harvey met his wife, Lynne Cooper, who he nicknamed Angel, while working in St. Louis after admiring her car. Harvey proposed to her on their first date.
“As I looked at him, I thought, this man is going to go places,” Angel Harvey once said.
They worked together for decades and their son, Paul Jr., later joined them as writer for the “Rest of the Story” segments. Angel Harvey died last year.
Harvey rarely took time off for a vacation and often said he would never retire from broadcasting.
“What would I do? Play more golf? The way I play? My goodness that’s real torment,” he once told Reuters. “And I certainly don’t enjoy sitting on a creek bank drowning worms more than one day a year. I’d rather be sitting at that typewriter painting pictures. I’d rather be doing that than anything else.”
Editing by Peter Cooney