Ed Walker, a fixture on Washington radio for more than 60 years, will end his career next week with the airing of his final program on WAMU (88.5 FM), his broadcast home since 1990.
Walker, 83, is battling cancer and is retiring to focus on his health, WAMU said in a statement Thursday. He has entered a skilled nursing facility.
For the past quarter-century, Walker has been the host of “The Big Broadcast,” a four-hour weekly retrospective of programs from radio’s golden age, such as “Gunsmoke” and “Johnny Dollar.” The Sunday-night program is WAMU’s longest-running, airing since 1964.
Walker is well known to an earlier generation of radio listeners as half of the “Joy Boys,” the daily entertainment and comedy program that he co-hosted with Willard Scott on local stations from 1955 to 1974. Scott, who went on to become the weatherman on NBC’s “Today” show, first teamed with Walker on the radio when the two were classmates at American University in Washington, the owner of WAMU.
After the “Joy Boys” left the air, Walker worked for other Washington-area radio and TV stations, including WJLA (Channel 7) from 1975 until 1980.
As an AU student in 1950, Walker was among the founding members of WAMU, then a campus radio station broadcasting on the AM band.
Born blind, Walker began listening to radio as a child in the 1930s.
“Radio was everything to me, not being able to see,” he once told WAMU.
“The sound on radio was important. Radio took the place of comic books and newspapers and the funnies and all that stuff. So I grew up with it.”
He was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame in 2009 as a local radio “pioneer.”
Walker’s last program was recorded this week at WAMU and will air Oct. 25, the station said.
“The Big Broadcast,” regularly the most popular local radio program in its time slot, will remain on the air, WAMU said. A successor to Walker hasn’t been named.