The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Andy Ockershausen, D.C. broadcast executive, dies at 92

Andy Ockershausen and his wife, Janice. (Mary Pat Collins)

Andrew M. “Andy” Ockershausen, a Washington-area broadcast executive who spent 27 years as general manager of WMAL radio, died March 17 in a hospital in Annapolis. He was 92.

The cause was complications from a fall, said Jory Stieber, vice president of Best Bark Communications, where Mr. Ockershausen most recently did podcast interviews.

Mr. Ockershausen joined WMAL in 1949 as a 20-year-old page — essentially a gofer — at a salary of $21 a week and a free streetcar pass. Ten years later, he was running the station as general manager.

Washington Post local columnist John Kelly described WMAL under Mr. Ockershausen’s leadership into the 1980s as “the loveliest of AM radio stations.”

It was a broadcasting operation of good-natured banter and wisecracking. When it snowed, morning show hosts Frank Harden and Jackson Weaver could be counted on to joke that “Rinky-Dinky Day School” would be among those schools closed because of the weather emergency.

In the half-hour after 7 a.m. on weekdays, they played a military marching tune, which they introduced with the lusty command, “Forward march!”

Arguably, Mr. Ockershausen’s best remembered and most popular decision came in 1981 when he put together Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff — former players with the Washington football team then known as the Redskins — with sportscaster Frank Herzog, as radio broadcasters of Washington NFL games. “It was an easy, easy decision,” Mr. Ockershausen later said.

For 23 years, the threesome stayed together, a period that included three Super Bowls under the leadership of head coach Joe Gibbs.

Jurgensen, in particular, never balked at criticizing the team’s play on the air. When the Washington team seemed to him to be “dogging it,” he said so, as in a 30-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the fifth game of the 1981 season, dropping Washington to an 0-5 record in Gibbs’s first season as head coach.

Jurgensen sometimes criticized quarterback Joe Theismann for poor play calling. Often he was accurate in his predictions from the broadcast booth of what the next play would be. So popular was the trio that many football fans listened to the Washington games on WMAL radio while watching on television with the sound muted.

Under Mr. Ockershausen’s leadership, WMAL energetically cultivated an image as a hometown community journal. It supported charitable fundraising drives, police boys clubs and health causes such as the leukemia society and Children’s Hospital.

In the 1960s, Ethel Kennedy, the wife of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), once called Mr. Ockershausen to complain because he would not broadcast a story about her lost dog, according to Washingtonian magazine.

Andrew Martin Ockershausen, a third-generation Washingtonian, was born in the District on March 14, 1929. His father was a former merchant mariner who later was a captain of yacht cruises on the Intracoastal Waterway.

He graduated in 1947 from Eastern High School, where he was quarterback on the football team and where he was called “Andy O.” He then attended the University of Maryland and American University before joining WMAL. He left soon after the station was acquired by Capital Cities/ABC in 1986.

William A. Regardie, former publisher of Regardie’s business magazine in Washington, recalled Mr. Ockershausen as a popular luncheon speaker, a presence at charitable and sporting events, and a well-connected member of the city’s Board of Trade. He called him the “man to see” when you needed to get something done in Washington, especially in the years before Congress passed the D.C. Home Rule Act in 1973.

Because of his D.C. police connections, Regardie said, Mr. Ockershausen was once called on by Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. (D-Va.) for help in negotiating a hopelessly entangled downtown traffic jam to be on time for an appointment in Virginia. With a single phone call, Mr. Ockershausen cleared a quick passage for the senator.

For two decades after leaving WMAL, Mr. Ockershausen worked with a variety of broadcast entities including WFTY-TV and Home Team Sports, which is now NBC Sports Washington.

His marriages to Edith Young and Betty Overly ended in divorce. In 1993, he married Janice Iacona. In addition to his wife, of Annapolis, survivors include two sons from his second marriage, Kurt Ockershausen of Torrey, Utah, and Christian Ockershausen of Parker, Ariz.; and two grandchildren.

Since 2016, Mr. Ockershausen had done more than 200 podcasts, titled “Our Town,” that were produced by Best Bark, his wife’s communications company.

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