Paul Harvey, who was long considered the most-listened-to radio broadcaster in the world and whose distinctive delivery and daily mix of news, commentary and human interest stories informed and entertained a national radio audience for nearly 60 years, died Saturday. He was 90.
FOR THE RECORD:
Harvey, called "the voice of Middle America," "the apostle of Main Street" and "the voice of the Silent Majority" by the media for his flag-waving conservatism and championing of traditional values, died at a hospital near his winter home in Phoenix, the ABC network announced. The cause was not given.
The Chicago-based Harvey was syndicated on more than 1,200 radio stations nationally and 400 Armed Forces Radio stations around the world. Harvey had not been on the air on a daily basis in the last few months, but he did do some prerecorded segments. His son, Paul Harvey Jr., had been filling in as host.
Coming of professional age in the late 1930s and the 1940s, a time when broadcasters such as Lowell Thomas and Gabriel Heatter were household names, Harvey continued to flourish in the era of Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh.
For more than 50 years, beginning in 1951, ABC Radio Network listeners were greeted by Harvey's trademark telegraphic delivery punctuated by his patented pauses:
"Hello, Americans!" he'd boom into the microphone in his studio high above Michigan Avenue, "This is Paul Harvey! [pause] Stand by for news!"
He'd end each broadcast with his signature: "Paul Harvey. [long pause] Good day!"
The "Paul Harvey News and Comment" broadcasts -- five minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at midday six days a week -- were consistently ranked first and second in the nation among network radio shows.
Equally popular were his five- minute "The Rest of the Story" broadcasts in which Harvey told historical vignettes with surprise endings, such as the 13-year-old boy who receives a cash gift from Franklin D. Roosevelt and turns out to be Fidel Castro. Or the one about the famous trial lawyer who never finished law school (Clarence Darrow).
Harvey's various broadcasts reached an estimated 24 million listeners daily.
"He certainly was among the last great radio commentators," Michael C. Keith, communications professor at Boston College and author of "The Broadcast Century," told The Times in 2001.
Part of Harvey's enduring appeal, Keith said, was his writing style, "a kind of down-home flavor yet sophisticated quality. It grabs you and holds on to you.
"His delivery was always reminiscent of the great broadcasters of the past, which made him a unique sound on contemporary radio. But he was always relevant to the present. Paul Harvey was never out of fashion. Once he came on the air, he was just irresistible. He really had you from the moment he said, 'Page One!' "
He was born Paul Harvey Aurandt in Tulsa, Okla., on Sept. 4, 1918. His father was a Tulsa police officer who was killed in the line of duty when Harvey was 3, and Harvey's mother raised him and his sister. (He dropped his last name for professional reasons in the 1940s. "Ethnic names were not very popular," he once explained. Besides, "no one could spell it.")
Growing up in the 1920s, Harvey developed an early infatuation with the new medium of radio, picking up stations from a homemade cigar-box crystal set.