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

Bob Edwards, the 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 listeners, died Saturday in Arlington, Virginia. He was 76 years old.

He died at a rehabilitation center from heart failure and complications from bladder cancer, said his wife, Windsor Johnston.

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

Mr. Edwards began as a temporary host of this program for 30 days before serving as its anchor for 24 and a half years.

“Bob Edwards understood the intimate, distinctly personal connection with audiences that distinguishes audio journalism from other media,” said John Lansing, NPR’s managing director. said in a statement“and for decades, he has been a trusted voice in the daily lives of millions of NPR listeners.”

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

“We had five good – albeit difficult – years together, until we could sort of find each other’s rhythm, because he was Mr. Cool, he was Mr. Bossy and straight ahead,” said she declared. “I was the New Yorker with a million ideas and a big laugh. But we really adapted quite well.

She called him “the voice we woke up to” for a quarter of a century.

On “Morning Edition,” Mr. Edwards interviewed thousands of news personalities, but also included stories on the singer Dolly Parton and the famous baseball announcer Red Barber, with whom he managed a popular weekly segment comment.

Mr. Edwards was ousted from “Morning Edition” in 2004, a decision that sparked protests from listeners and reached the halls of Congress, where Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, spoke out. raised in the Senate to oppose it, calling Mr. Edwards “the most successful morning voice in America.”

An NPR mediator, Jeffrey A. Dvorkin, wrote at the time that 35,000 listeners had commented on Mr. Edwards’ departure from the program, many of whom were disheartened and some suggesting ageism. Mr. Edwards was about to turn 57.

He discussed his on-air departure with NPR colleague Scott Simon, saying “tastes change, and they have different ideas about what the show is and who should do it.” He was replaced by Steve Inskeep and Renée Montagne. (The program today is led by M. Inskeep, Leila Fadel, Michel Martin and A. Martínez.)

Robert Alan Edwards was born in Louisville on May 16, 1947 to Joseph and Loretta (Fuchs) Edwards. His father worked for the city government. Bob Edwards knew he had a voice for radio when, as a child, he would answer the phone and callers would say, “Hello, Mr. Edwards,” assuming he was his father, he told M .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 American University in Washington. He ditched his Kentucky accent and worked briefly at WTOP in Washington before joining NPR.

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

In addition to his wife, Ms. Johnston, a journalist 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 audiovisual 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 Mr. Edwards had long been upset that NPR pushed him to leave as host of “Morning Edition” several months before his 25th birthday. “He never got over it,” she said.

After his final show “Morning Edition”, on April 30, 2004, he was named NPR correspondent, but left shortly after when he was approached to host a show on SiriusXM Radio; “The Bob Edwards Show” as it was called, ran until 2014. It also appeared on “Bob Edwards Weekend” on public radio.

“He paid attention to the smallest detail and lived by the philosophy that ‘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.”