Among the many memories of my working years include time with one of America’s great voices on the radio. For exactly how many years I can’t recall, I would listen to Paul Harvey News and Commentary during my lunch break. Well…I would if I was in my truck and had a strong enough radio signal. I worked alone much of the time, and I always looked forward to what this wise and articulate man had to say. I can’t remember ever being disappointed after one of his broadcasts. He was like an old friend who I enjoyed sharing my lunch time with.  

     Paul Harvey Aurandt was born on September 4, 1918, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Harry Harrison Aurandt and Anna Dagmar Christensen Aurandt. Paul had one older sister, Frances Harrietta Aurandt Price, ten years his senior. Harry, the secretary to the Tulsa police commissioner and purchasing agent for the Tulsa Police and Fire Departments, was killed in 1921 by criminals encountered while he and the chief detective of police were hunting.

     As a young boy, Paul was captivated by the radio. So much so that, as a hobby, he made radio receivers. He attended Tulsa Central High School, where one of his teachers, Isabelle Ronan, was so impressed with his voice that in 1933 she recommended him for a job at KVOO Radio in Tulsa. He was hired primarily to keep the place straightened up, but eventually was allowed to read commercials and some of the news on the air. 

     He continued working at KVOO while attending the University of Tulsa, becoming an announcer and eventually a program director. For three years, he was station manager for KFBI AM, now known as KFDI. From there, he took a newscasting job at KOMA in Oklahoma City, and then in 1938 to KXOX in St. Louis where he was a roving reporter and Director of Special Events. From 1941 to 1943, he worked as program director at WKZO radio in Kalamazoo, Michigan, while also serving as the Office of War Information’s news director for Michigan and Indiana.

     Harvey then took an assignment to Hawaii to cover the U.S. Navy as it moved most of its Pacific fleet there. He was returning to the mainland from this assignment when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He served in the U.S. Army Air Forces from December 1943 to March 1944, when he was medically discharged. He then moved to Chicago, where he began broadcasting from the ABC affiliate WENR in June 1944. 

     In 1945, he began hosting the postwar employment program Jobs for G.I. Joe on WENR. It was then and there that The Rest of the Story was born in 1946, but only as a tagline to in-depth feature stories. 

     Harvey’s appearance on the national scene began in the late 1940s and early 1950s with occasional work for ABC Radio in Chicago. His big break, though, came somewhat unexpectedly when he replaced commentator H.R. Baukhage after guest hosting for him for two weeks. On April 1, 1951, the ABC Radio Network debuted Paul Harvey News and Comment, with a noon time slot on weekdays. His network television debut came on November 16, 1952, when he began a 15-minute newscast on ABC. The program originated at WENR-TV in Chicago. 

Remembering Paul Harvey broadcasting in 50s

     Paul Harvey broadcasting, 1950s (Arnold, MO)

His other program, The Rest of the Story, which provided backstories behind famous people and events, came into its own at its premiere on May 10, 1976, on ABC Radio. The series quickly grew to six broadcasts a week and continued for the remainder of his career. It was the brainchild of Harvey’s wife Lynne and written and produced by his son, Paul Harvey, Jr. Between 1951 and 2008, Paul Harvey News and Comment and The Rest of the Story listenership at its peak was estimated at 24 million people a week and would be carried on 1,200 radio stations, 400 Armed Forces Network stations, and 300 newspapers.

Remembering Paul Harvey Lynne and Paul Jr.

Paul, Lynne, and Paul Harvey Jr. preparing radio
program, 1950s  (Paul

In addition, Harvey wrote and recorded speeches aimed at specific aspects of  American life and culture, such as “So God Made a Farmer” and “If I Were the Devil.” These reflected Harvey’s understanding of human nature and history and struck a strong chord with Americans nationwide. Paul Harvey also authored several books, including Autumn of LibertyRemember These ThingsYou Said ItPaul Harvey, and Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor.

     In April 2008, Harvey came down with pneumonia, which prevented him from hosting his show on a full-time basis. Not long after his recovery, his wife of 68 years died on May 3. This tremendous loss devastated him, prolonging his time away from the microphone. However, he did voice commercials and new episodes of The Rest of the Story and News & Comment during middays a few times a week.

     No account of Paul Harvey’s life and success would be complete or accurate without acknowledging the role his wife played. Lynne Cooper met Paul Harvey in 1939 at KXOK when she came to the station for a school news program. Harvey invited her to dinner and proposed to her after a few minutes of conversation. They were married in June 1940, and for the next 68 years, she would always be “Angel,” even on his radio show. The Chicago Sun-Times described her as “More than his astute business partner and producer, she also was a pioneer for women in radio and an influential figure in her own right for decades.” Lynne Harvey was the first producer ever inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. According to the founder of the Museum of Broadcast Communications, Bruce DuMont, “She really put him on track to have the phenomenal career that his career has been.”

     Trying to describe Paul Harvey’s formula for success and popularity is no easy task. All I can say is that he had a gift and, with the drive and resolve to refine it and share it with others, helped to make the world a better place. I think he exuded trust on the radio at the same level as did Walter Cronkite on television. He had a knack for inspiring people to listen and think at the same time. It’s been said that his success with sponsors stemmed from the seamlessness with which he segued from his monologue into reading commercial messages. In Harvey’s words, “I am fiercely loyal to those willing to put their money where my mouth is.” 

     Paul Harvey was so much more than a voice and personality. The substance of his broadcasts reflected so much of the best of America. Though many people differed with him on some of his views and opinions, his audience always knew where he stood and why. He was passionate about what he believed as he spoke against welfare cheats and defended the death penalty. He was concerned about the national debt, big government, bureaucrats who lacked common sense, permissive parents, leftist radicals and America succumbing to moral decay. He championed rugged individualism, love of God and country, and the fundamental decency of ordinary people. He was indeed a force for good in applying and defending the freedom of speech and freedom of the press and in a responsible way.

    In all the years I listened to Paul Harvey, several of his comments have stayed with me. “If we cannot count on ourselves to do the right thing, how can we count on anyone or anything else? Self-government won’t work without self-discipline.” “Man — despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments — owes his existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.” “Communism has defeated itself everywhere except… in American colleges.” “These things I wish for you-tough times and disappointment, hard work and happiness. To me, it’s the only way to appreciate life.” 

     Paul Harvey’s accolades and awards are numerous. They include Election to the National Association of Broadcasters, National Radio Hall of Fame, and Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Appearing on the Gallup poll list of America’s most admired men. Awards (11) from the Freedom Foundation and the Horatio Alger Award. Awards from the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion. Named “Commentator of the Year” in 1962 by Radio/TV Daily.  Inducted to the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1979. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ most prestigious civilian award, by President George W. Bush in 2005.

Remembering Paul Harvey Presidential Medal of Freedom

Paul Harvey receiving Presidential Medal of
Freedom, 2005 (Wikipedia)

     Fifteen years ago this week, February 28, 2009, my old friend was reunited with his “Angel.” It was a great loss for me, as it was for many people in America and around the world. Paul Harvey’s voice and influence transcended borders and oceans and, in some cases, languages and cultures. He left a void that I think will never be filled. In response to his father’s death, Paul Harvey Jr. said, “Millions have lost a friend.” Indeed – I was one of those millions. On a wall in my bedroom is a publicity photo of Paul Harvey, given as a 50th birthday gift by a co-worker. On it is a signed, hand-written inscription addressed to me. I treasure it.* 

     To this day, when I occasionally find myself reminiscing about days gone by, from time to time, I can still hear that unmistakable voice beckoning me to turn up the volume on my radio dial: “Hello, Americans, this is Paul Harvey! Stand byyy for newwws!”  

*Featured image: Author’s treasured gift

By Jeff Olson

Author Jeff Olson Hot Springs Village

Jeff Olson, Author

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