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Bob Edwards, radio host who constructed NPR’s ‘Morning Version,’ dies at 76

Hours prior to crack of dawn on Nov. 5, 1979, an NPR crew accumulated in a studio on the headquarters in Washington. A brand new display was once about to air.

This system already had long gone thru critical rising pains. Some NPR member stations had complained that previous check runs had sounded too chatty, too industrial. Emergency overhauls had been made, together with selecting new hosts. Considered one of them was once a emerging famous person at NPR with the flagship “All Issues Thought to be” display, who was once recognized for his unflappable demeanor and a basso profundo voice made huskier via a pack-a-day smoking dependancy.

He had a 30-day trial on the new display. The crimson “on-air” mild blinked on. “Morning Version” had begun.

“Excellent morning,” he started. “As of late is Man Fawkes Day. Man’s plot to explode Parliament was once came upon on at the present time in 1605. As of late is the start of Nationwide Break up Pea Soup Week, and it’s the debut of this program. I’m Bob Edwards.”

Mr. Edwards, who died Feb. 10 at 76, stayed at “Morning Version” for almost 1 / 4 century and changed into as a lot part of the begin-the-day rhythms for NPR listeners as espresso, commutes and getting the youngsters off to college. Then in 2004, a choice via NPR to drag Mr. Edwards from the display touched off an avalanche of proceedings from his fanatics that even integrated statements at the Senate ground.

Each his lengthy NPR run and the uproar over his departure mirrored Mr. Edwards’s deep affect on public radio because it moved from the margins of the nationwide dialog to grow to be a mainstay. His “Morning Version” interviews — greater than 20,000 from 1979 to 2004 — served as an audio scrapbook for a technology and helped identify NPR as a discussion board for visitors to make information or elevate their profile.

Mr. Edwards interviewed diplomats and autocrats, scientists and artists, the quirky and the robust. He carried out common check-ins with personalities corresponding to a former veterinarian grew to become cowboy poet, Baxter Black, and the wondrously erudite former Primary League Baseball announcer Crimson Barber, who would possibly discuss sports activities or perhaps describe how the beautiful dogwoods had been blooming out of doors his house in Tallahassee.

Mr. Edwards’s weekly reside chats with Barber over just about a dozen years changed into a fixture of “Morning Version.” The freewheeling Barber started calling Mr. Edwards “Colonel Bob” after the NPR host was once awarded an honorary designation as a Kentucky Colonel.

“Crimson Barber loosened me up, took me off-script,” Mr. Edwards recalled. His e book about their collaboration, “Fridays With Crimson: A Radio Friendship” (1993), was once as a lot about Barber because it was once about Mr. Edwards’s fascination with radio — which started as a child in Louisville perched in entrance of a hulking 1939 Zenith Lengthy Distance Radio in its polished mahogany case.

At “Morning Version,” he discovered his position as one in all NPR’s maximum flexible and fashionable hosts. He driven his manufacturers to restrict interviews with politicians (too predictable, he mentioned) and hunt down extra artists, activists and lesser-known newsmakers. The objective, he famous, was once to search out visitors who aren’t simply spewing rage or speaking issues.

“This can be a bit of island of civility and goal,” he instructed the Tampa Bay Instances in 1999. As soon as, Julia Kid and Paul Prudhomme joined different famed cooks to proportion Thanksgiving recipes with Mr. Edwards. In 1999, Mr. Edwards chatted with Baseball Corridor of Famer Willie Mays about taking part in within the fog and swirling winds of San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. (Now not really easy, Mays mentioned.)

“He was once massively answerable for shaping NPR’s symbol, its gravitas, its credibility together with his forged, no-nonsense taste,” mentioned Michael Harrison, editor and writer of Talkers, {a magazine} that covers communicate and information radio.

That still will have contributed to his undoing at NPR, Harrison mentioned. Via 2004, the pre-taped interview structure of “Morning Version” was once an increasing number of considered out of sync with calls for for extra breaking information protection. This was once now not Mr. Edwards’s area of expertise, mentioned Harrison, and Mr. Edwards steadily appeared uncomfortable when compelled into reside eventualities (with the exception of for his simple banter with Barber).

NPR mentioned it presented Mr. Edwards a brand new position as a senior correspondent for “Morning Version” after naming Steve Inskeep and Renée Montagne as the brand new co-hosts. Mr. Edwards opted to go away and shortly introduced a display on Sirius XM satellite tv for pc radio.

“This program is the final I shall host,” Mr. Edwards instructed the display’s just about 13 million listeners simply prior to the general section of “Morning Version” on April 30, 2004. “You’re the viewers a broadcaster goals of getting.”

For weeks prior to his ultimate broadcast, the backlash to NPR’s resolution boiled over. NPR gained tens of 1000’s of calls and emails protesting the transfer, some claiming ageism (Mr. Edwards was once 56) and noting the additional sting that NPR didn’t let Mr. Edwards succeed in his twenty fifth anniversary on “Morning Version.” A web site accumulated signatures with appeals for NPR to modify its thoughts.

NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin described the way in which NPR treated the alternate as “opaque — most likely essentially so.” On Capitol Hill, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Sick.) went at the ground to notice the general public outcry and applaud Mr. Edwards.

How Mr. Edwards described his breakup with NPR depended in large part at the day he was once requested. Now and then, he spoke of the bitterness about being proven the door when he felt he was once nonetheless on the best of his craft. Different instances, he joked he was once thankful as a result of he not had a 6 p.m. bedtime.

NPR as an establishment, he instructed an interviewer in 2016, was once to not blame.

“With newspapers in decline and industrial broadcasting an increasing number of shrill, partisan, and steadily irresponsible, investment for public radio is extra necessary than ever,” he mentioned. “NPR and its member stations are a countrywide treasure.”

Robert Alan Edwards was once born in Louisville on Might 16, 1947. His father was once an accountant and his mom a homemaker. In his 2011 memoir, “A Voice within the Field,” he recounted the Zenith radio from which he may select up stations as a long way away as New Orleans.

“Little boys wish to be firefighters or athletes or rock stars,” he wrote. “I sought after to be at the radio.”

Mr. Edwards graduated from the College of Louisville in 1969 and, as a senior, landed his first radio process around the Ohio River at a station in New Albany, Ind.

He served within the Military all through the Vietnam Warfare, generating and anchoring TV and radio information techniques for the American Forces Korea Community from Seoul. He discovered his solution to Washington after army provider as a information anchor at WTOP whilst running towards a grasp’s level in communications in 1972 from American College. He joined NPR in 1974, 4 years after its release.

The run-up to the debut of “Morning Version” was once a long way from easy, he recounted. First, the display wanted a reputation; ideas integrated “Earth Upward thrust” and “FYI.” The preliminary idea for the display was once spearheaded via two marketing consultant manufacturers employed via NPR from industrial radio. The specialists introduced of their hosts: Mary Tillotson, who went directly to paintings for CNN, and Pete Williams, later an NBC Information correspondent.

When the pilot displays had been piped over to NPR member stations, the responses had been harsh. Many concept it was once little greater than retooled AM information codecs. “It was once completely a crisis. It was once very chatty,” Mr. Edwards recalled. “It was once like dangerous small-market tv.”

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The specialists had been let pass, and NPR attempted to remake the display extra in its personal symbol, nearer to a morning model of “All Issues Thought to be.” Mr. Edwards and co-host Barbara Hoctor got provisional contracts with the display’s long term nonetheless in query. (Hoctor spent 4 months at the display, after which Mr. Edwards changed into the lone host.) The primary broadcast integrated an interview with actor Martin Sheen in regards to the movie “Apocalypse Now.”

Because the display grew a following, manufacturers attempted to recruit commentators with distinct regional range corresponding to Arkansas novelist Ellen Gilchrist, who mused about writing, and Barber, whom Mr. Edwards known as “the best audience-builder for NPR.”

“You set an Ellen Gilchrist on. You set a Crimson Barber on,” he mentioned, “and we didn’t sound like this, , elite Northeastern U.S., inside-the-Beltway outfit.”

Mr. Edwards’s honors come with a Peabody Award in 1999 and induction into the Radio Corridor of Reputation in November 2004. In public occasions, he poked a laugh at his hangdog glance and unfashionable side-part coiffure, as soon as pronouncing of his look, “There’s a explanation why we’re in radio.”

Right through his ultimate months at NPR, Mr. Edwards revealed “Edward R. Murrow and the Start of Broadcast Journalism” (2004). “The Bob Edwards Display” and a later compilation disbursed via Public Radio World, “Bob Edwards Weekend,” resulted in 2015. He then hosted a podcast for AARP.

His marriages to Joan Murphy and Sharon Kelly resulted in divorce. He married NPR information anchor Windsor Johnston in 2011. Along with his spouse, of Washington, survivors come with two daughters from his 2nd marriage, Eleanor Edwards and Susannah Edwards; and a brother. Mr. Edwards’s loss of life, at a rehabilitation middle in Arlington, Va., of metastatic bladder most cancers and a middle ailment, was once showed via his spouse.

Mr. Edwards determined to near out his “Morning Version” tenure the similar method it all started. His interview matter was once CBS Information correspondent Charles Osgood, who was once additionally his first one-on-one interview in 1979.

“You’re the alpha and the omega,” Mr. Edwards instructed Osgood.


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