Bob Edwards, the longtime “Morning Edition” anchor whose soothing voice and friendly but incisive questions guided listeners through the early broadcast for nearly 25 years, has died. He was 76.
Edwards died “peacefully” on Saturday, his wife and NPR anchor Windsor Johnston wrote Monday on Facebook. Johnston did not provide a cause of death but said that she and Edwards’ daughters, Susannah and Nora, “were with him as he took his final breath.”
The New York Times reported Monday that Edwards died at a rehabilitation facility from heart failure and complications of bladder cancer.
“He smiled as we played the well wishes, loving memories and messages of healing that you all so kindly took the time to record for him,” she wrote. “A tear slid down his face as he listened to those familiar voices under the bed of the old Morning Edition theme.”
“The world of broadcasting has lost a behemoth,” Johnston added. “Bob was an absolute master at his skill and left an indelible mark on the field of journalism. He was a stickler for even the tiniest of details and lived by the philosophy that ‘less is more.’ He helped [pave] the way for the younger generation of journalists who continue to make NPR what it is today.”
Born May 16, 1947, the Louisville, Ky., native began his career at a tiny radio station in New Albany, Ind., and joined NPR as a newscaster in 1974 during the Nixon impeachment and Watergate hearings. He began hosting NPR’s “All Things Considered” with Susan Stamberg later that year. Edwards also helped launch NPR’s morning news magazine “Morning Edition” in 1979 — a pilot program that he said was a disaster in its infancy and that he was only supposed to host for the first 30 days.
“I thought, ‘Well, what the hell? They’re desperate, and now they’ll owe me,’” Edwards told The Times upon the program’s 10-year anniversary. “What a fool. But then I started enjoying it. It was exciting to be a part of something new, to have the challenge of building something up to the level of ‘All Things Considered.’”
That would become “a career-defining moment” for Edwards, NPR President and Chief Executive John Lansing said in a Monday statement. “He continued to be the voice that NPR listeners started their day with for another 24 and a half years as host of ‘Morning Edition.’”
“Bob Edwards understood the intimate and distinctly personal connection with audiences that distinguishes audio journalism from other mediums, and for decades he was a trusted voice in the lives of millions of public radio listeners. Staff at NPR and all across the Network, along with those millions of listeners, will remember Bob Edwards with gratitude,” Lansing said.
Edwards left NPR after being replaced on the show in 2004 and joined SiriusXM satellite radio.
During his decades-long career, the amiable, baritone-voiced journalist won the 1984 Edward R. Murrow Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, two Gabriel Awards from the National Catholic Assn. of Broadcasters, the Alfred I. du Pont-Columbia University Award and a Peabody Award. He also wrote several books, including “Friday with Red: A Radio Friendship” about his conversations with veteran sportscaster Red Barber; the memoir “A Voice in the Box: My Life in Radio”; and the historical book “Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism.”
Explaining the appeal of NPR-style radio journalism, Edwards told The Times that it was all part of “the illusion” that the person on the radio is talking only to you.
“When you watch television, you’re not under any kind of illusion like that. When you watch Dan [Rather] or Peter [Jennings], you’re always a part of a huge mass audience. In radio, you don’t have a sense of that mass audience. I don’t know why. It’s magic,” he said.
Johnston, who had been married to Edwards for 12 years, described him as “the absolute love of my life.”
“He was an extremely loving and supporting partner, not to mention my greatest admirer,” she wrote, adding, “It’s unbearable to think of a life without him, but until we meet again I’ll continue to listen for that beautiful voice in my ear, wishing me luck and telling me to ‘break a lip.’”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.