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Beloved Radio Broadcaster Paul Harvey Dies at 90

Paul Harvey's news items flowed seamlessly into ad messages.
Paul Harvey's news items flowed seamlessly into ad messages. (Fred Jewell - AP)
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By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 1, 2009

Paul Harvey, 90, a Chicago-based radio broadcaster whose authoritative baritone voice and distinctive staccato delivery attracted millions of daily listeners for more than half a century, died Feb. 28 in Phoenix.

A spokesman for ABC Radio Networks told the Associated Press that Mr. Harvey died at his winter home, surrounded by family. No cause of death was immediately available.

Mr. Harvey was the voice of the American heartland, offering to millions his trademark greeting: "Hello Americans! This is Paul Harvey. Stand by! For news!"

For millions, Paul Harvey in the morning or at noon was as much a part of daily routine as morning coffee.

"Paul Harvey News and Comment" was a distinctive blend of rip-and-read headline news, quirky feature stories and, usually, a quick congratulation to a couple who had been married for 75 years or so. The news stories, and Harvey's distinctive take on them -- usually, but not always, from a conservative political perspective -- flowed seamlessly into commercial messages for products Mr. Harvey endorsed.

One of radio's most effective pitchmen, he kept sponsors for decades, attracted by such features as "The Rest of the Story," mesmerizing little tales, cleverly written, that featured a surprising O Henry-style twist to stories listeners thought they already knew.

In 2000, ABC Radio Networks awarded Mr. Harvey, then 82, a 10-year, $100 million contract, a tribute not only to his gargantuan listening audience of about 22 million people but also to his uncanny ability to inspire trust in his listeners -- trust that the products he pitched were worth buying because Paul Harvey said so.

A 1985 survey found that the four most popular radio programs on the air nationally were four of his broadcasts in different time slots.

Paul Harvey was born Paul Harvey Aurandt in Tulsa on Sept. 4, 1918.

Descended from five generations of Baptist preachers, in high school, he was a champion orator. A teacher helped him get his first radio job, at KVOO in Tulsa, when he was 14.

He worked as a staff announcer at KVOO while taking classes at the University of Tulsa and then became the station manager at KFBI in Abilene, Kan. Work at stations in Oklahoma City, St. Louis and Michigan followed.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1943 and received an honorable medical discharge a few months later after a training injury.

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