Bob Edwards, Longtime Host of NPR’s ‘Morning Edition,’ Dies at 76

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Bob Edwards, Longtime Host of NPR’s ‘Morning Edition,’ Dies at 76


Bob Edwards, host of NPR’s “Morning Edition” for nearly a quarter-century whose rich baritone and cool demeanor gave his radio shows the authority to reach millions of listeners, died Saturday in Arlington, Virginia. He was 76 years old.

His death at a rehabilitation facility was due to heart failure and complications from bladder cancer, said his wife, Windsor Johnston.

Mr. Edwards, a Kentucky native who knew from a young age that he wanted to work in radio, joined NPR in 1974 during the Watergate hearings. This year, he became co-host of “All Things Considered,” the public broadcaster’s signature evening newsmagazine with interviews, analysis and features. The success led to the spin-off “Morning Edition” in 1979.

Mr. Edwards initially served as interim host of this program for 30 days before serving as its host for 24.5 years.

“Bob Edwards understood the intimate and deeply personal connection with audiences that distinguishes audio journalism from other media,” NPR executive director John Lansing said in a statement, “and for decades he was a trusted voice in the daily lives of millions of people.” NPR listeners.”

Susan Stamberg, his co-host on “All Things Considered,” described the chemistry between oil and vinegar in an interview with NPR for its obituary for Mr. Edwards.

“We had five good – if rocky – years together before we kind of found each other’s rhythm, because he was Mr. Cool, he was Mr. Authoritative and straight forward,” she said. “I was the New Yorker with a million ideas and a big laugh. But we’ve actually adapted pretty well.”

For a quarter of a century she called him “the voice we woke up to.”

On “Morning Edition,” Mr. Edwards interviewed thousands of prominent news figures, but also covered singer Dolly Parton and noted baseball announcer Red Barber, with whom he ran a popular weekly commentary section.

Mr. Edwards was ousted from “Morning Edition” in 2004, a move that drew protests from listeners and reached into the halls of Congress, where Sen. Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, rose on the Senate floor to object and call Mr. Edwards “the most successful morning voice in America.”

An NPR ombudsman, Jeffrey A. Dvorkin, wrote at the time that 35,000 listeners had commented on Mr. Edwards’ departure from the show, many discouraging and some suggesting ageism. Mr. Edwards was about to turn 57.

He discussed his exit from the show with his NPR colleague Scott Simon, saying, “Tastes change and they have different ideas about the show and who should do it.” He was replaced by Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne. (Moderators of today’s program are Mr. Inskeep, Leila Fadel, Michel Martin and A. Martínez.)

Robert Alan Edwards was born May 16, 1947 in Louisville to Joseph and Loretta (Fuchs) Edwards. His father worked for the city government. Bob Edwards knew he had a voice for radio when he answered the phone as a child and callers would say “Hello, Mr. Edwards,” assuming he was his father, he said to Mr. Simon.

After graduating from the University of Louisville in 1969, he was drafted and sent to South Korea, where he worked for armed forces radio and television. He then earned a master’s degree in journalism from the American University in Washington. He dropped his Kentucky accent and worked briefly at WTOP in Washington before moving to NPR.

In 2000, Mr. Edwards won a Peabody Award for “Morning Edition,” which the awards committee described as “two hours of daily in-depth news and entertainment under the expert direction of a man who embodies the essence of excellence in radio.”

In addition to his wife, Ms. Johnston, a reporter and news anchor for NPR, he is survived by two daughters from a previous marriage, Susannah and Eleanor Edwards, and a brother, Joe. His marriages to Joan Murphy and Sharon Kelly ended in divorce.

Mr. Edwards married Ms. Johnston in 2011. They had met several years earlier when she interviewed him for WHYY in Philadelphia about a book he had written, “Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism.” He wrote two other books: “A Voice in the Box: My Life in Radio” and “Fridays with Red: A Radio Friendship.”

In a telephone interview, Ms. Johnston said that Mr. Edwards had long been upset that NPR ousted him from the anchor chair of “Morning Edition” several months ago a full 25 years ago. “He never got over it,” she said.

After his final “Morning Edition” show on April 30, 2004, he was assigned the job of NPR correspondent, but he left soon after when he was asked to host a show on SiriusXM Radio; “The Bob Edwards Show,” as it was called, ran until 2014. He also appeared on “Bob Edwards Weekend” on public radio.

“He paid attention to even the smallest details and lived by the philosophy of ‘less is more,'” Ms. Johnston wrote on Facebook. “He helped pave the way for the younger generation of journalists who continue to make NPR what it is today.”



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2024-02-12 23:43:39

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