Hello, Americans (and _flossy readers from everywhere else)! Two years ago today, Paul Harvey died at the age of 90, having been on the radio for over 70 years. For what it’s worth, here are ten interesting tidbits about the legend of radio.
1. He would want us to mention his name. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on September 4, 1918 as Paul Harvey Aurandt, the newscaster was the son of a police officer and a Danish immigrant. He dropped his surname when he began his radio career at KVOO in Tulsa.
2. He wasn’t into long courtship, apparently. Harvey met Lynne “Angel” Cooper at KXOK-AM in St. Louis, where they were both newscasters. He proposed on their first date, she accepted a year later, and the couple married in 1940. The rest, as they say, is history.
3. He was a friend of the animals. Paul and Angel were members of the Humane Society from the group’s founding in 1954. Later, son Paul Jr. became involved as well. Harvey discussed issues of animal cruelty in his broadcasts and publicly endorsed animal protection initiatives in Arizona and California.
4. Advertisers put their money where his mouth was. In 1979, People Magazine reported that Harvey made about $2 million a year — as much money as Barbara Walters, Walter Cronkite and Mike Wallace combined. In 2000, ABC extended Harvey’s contract by ten years and $100 million. In 2005, Forbes reported a $30 million income for the broadcaster, and in 2006, Harvey reportedly accounted for 10% of ABC’s $300 million a year advertising earnings.
5. He was a coiner of words. Reaganomics, guesstimate, and skyjacker have been attributed to Harvey.
6. But he probably didn’t write that forwarded email you keep getting. Snopes has an ever-growing section of Paul Harvey-misattributed stories, almost entirely all false. So if you’re still getting “The Rest of the Story” forwards claiming Mel Gibson is the real-life Man Without a Face and Grace Slick named her daughter God, you can disregard them. (This is probably true of most forwarded emails, actually.)
7. He was nearly charged with espionage. In 1951, Harvey was caught on restricted property at Argonne National Laboratory, a nuclear test site near Chicago. He claimed he was doing some “investigative journalism” on the lab’s reportedly lax security. Harvey was taken before a grand jury but not indicted. A year later, he met with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and the two became friends.
8. He was well connected, to say the least. Following Harvey’s brush with the law, his friendship with Hoover proved rather beneficial to his show. In 2010, Paul Harvey’s FBI file was released under the Freedom of Information Act. The 1400 pages of information indicate that officials in the bureau were happy to “add meat to the bones” of Harvey’s broadcast content, which he frequently sent them in advance. Agents routinely fact-checked and added material to his pieces from the mid-fifties until his death.
9. And he was highly-awarded, too. Harvey was named American of the Year, Father of the Year, Salesman of the Year, Commentator of the Year, Person of the Year, elected into the Radio Hall of Fame, DeMolay Hall of Fame and Oklahoma Hall of Fame, listed in a Gallup poll of America’s Most Admired Men, and received 11 Freedom Foundation Awards, the Horatio Alger Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and an honorary degree from Washington University in St. Louis.
10. The Rest of the Story. Most of us remember Paul Harvey from his ubiquitous “The Rest of the Story” pieces, which broadcast to more than 24 million listeners a week at the show’s peak. Premiering on May 10, 1976, the series ran six days a week until Harvey’s death in 2009, and was written by Paul Harvey, Jr. Though well-received and memorable, claims by the broadcaster that every piece was entirely true have been long debated by urban legend and history experts.