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The Idle American
Good-Bye to a National Treasure…
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 • Posted March 10, 2009

Efforts to write a tribute to Paul Harvey, a hero to millions, are akin to firing air rifles at the sun—both will fall miserably short.

He was without peers in his field, and we give thanks that his marvelous voice graced radio air waves for more than 75 years.

Fascinated by the medium of radio since boyhood, he built his own crystal set receiver as a lad. Later in high school, he started hanging around the KVOO studios in his hometown of Tulsa, OK. He swept the floors there before landing mike-side assignments in 1933….

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Bob Greene, noted Chicago columnist/author and longtime personal friend of the 90-year-old Harvey, captured the essence of the man who for decades had more radio news listeners than anyone else on the planet.

He compared Harvey’s newscasts to symphonies, underscoring not only the news maestro’s unique delivery, but also his careful choice of words. Greene believes that Harvey was every bit as good a writer as broadcaster.

Harvey made hash of punctuation marks, particularly periods that were as puppets on his string. Listeners never knew when he was going to glide right over them like a thoroughbred horse on a simple jump, or perhaps stop completely, as if waiting for a 100-car freight train to lumber by. Often Harvey’s long pauses were more profound than words uttered on either side of the caverns of nothingness….

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Harvey’s official website is worth checking out. With his beloved wife Lynne (he called her “Angel”) at his side professionally and personally until her death last year, Harvey accrued honors numbering into the thousands.

A champion of the work ethic who rose for work at 3:30 each day, he had 25 million listeners over more than 1,500 radio stations world-wide. He was everyman’s American.

If he said it, you could take it to the bank….

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Forever committed to his beloved medium, Harvey gave TV a try for a while, but it wasn’t for him.

Maybe he preferred stirring lazy minds to paint their own pictures from the words he presented.

He joked that he hoped that television would one day be found to cause cancer….

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Tributes to Mr. Harvey are invited by the Chicago Tribune at chicagotribune.com/paulharvey. Alas, three days following his death, only 150 people had taken time to write a note.

Some of them are acid-laced diatribes from “crazies.” How sad.

Harvey would have insisted on running them, however few, right along with the rest….

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Successor to the late Lowell Thomas as king of radio news, Harvey also eventually exceeded him in longevity. They had much in common, both relying on subtle humor.

Complimented for his strong listenership, Thomas always demurred when praised for having more listeners than any other newsman.

“Oh, there’s a good reason,” he laughed. “My newscasts precede Amos n’ Andy. Many listeners hear me because they tune in early, making sure to not miss a single word of Amos n’ Andy.”…

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Harvey was even more modest than Thomas.

I was privileged to meet Mr. Harvey just once, more than three decades ago. We were backstage, prior to his Fort Worth address. His warm, generous spirit is warmly remembered.

His speech, like his broadcasts, mesmerized. He was a man to be “tuned in,” and never “tuned out.”…

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Radio loyalists are like that. The late Grady Nutt, preacher/comedian killed in a plane crash nearly 30 years ago, told a story about his dad who loved to hear the Stamps Quartet on the radio every day at noon.

“He set the dial squarely on the frequency, and he set the volume exactly where he wanted it,” Nutt said. “Then, he sawed off the knobs.”

Clearly, the elder Nutt didn’t want anyone fouling up the radio knobs for the only show he cared about….

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One of the Harvey tributes caught my eye. It reads:

“All candles burn out eventually, but this candle was special. It gave us hope that we might find our way through the thick darkness of life. It kept us warm when we felt cold. It made us feel safe when the cold winds blew.

Good-bye Mr. Harvey. We’ll all miss you.”…

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This radio giant believed in and worked toward better days for Americans.

His home-going leaves an irreplaceable void. But we must forge on.

He entreated us to “stand by…for NEWS!” But it will be impossible to stand by with the same sense of anticipation for whoever stands in….

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Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. E-mail inquiries and comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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