Monday, October 26, 2015

R.I.P.: Legendary D-C Personality Ed Walker Was 83

Ed Walker
Ed Walker, longtime host of The Big Broadcast on WAMU 88.5 FM, passed away early this morning.

He was 83-years-of-age, according to WAMU.

Ed listened to his radio finale last night, surrounded by his family. He passed away just a few hours later.

"Goodbyes are very hard to do, especially when this has been a labor of love. More than anything else, my thanks go out to all the people at WAMU who've helped me over the years," Walker said in his final broadcast. "Once again, I thank you so much for enjoying the show and being a part of it over these 24 years.

Ed was on the air in Washington for six decades.

Walker, who was totally blind since birth, said that growing up "radio was my comic books, movies, everything".   After graduating from Maryland School for the Blind, he was the first blind student at American University in Washington where, in 1950, he helped launch the campus radio station, WAMU-AM — the predecessor of WAMU-FM. Willard Scott joined the radio station the following year, forming a professional and personal bond with Walker that continued for his entire life. Scott said in his book, The Joy of Living, that they are "closer than most brothers".

Ed Walker, Willard Scott The Joy Boys
From 1955 to 1974, Walker teamed with Scott as co-hosts of the nightly Joy Boys program, an improvised comedy radio show in Washington.  On Joy Boys, Scott sketched a list of characters and a few lead lines setting up the situation, which Walker would commit to memory or note on his Braille typewriter. The program began on WRC 980 AM, an NBC owned-and-operated station, moving in 1972 to WWDC 1270 AM. In a 1999 article recalling the Joy Boys at the height of their popularity in the mid-1960s, the Washington Post said they "dominated Washington, providing entertainment, companionship, and community to a city on the verge of powerful change".

Since the Joy Boys left the air in October 1974, Walker worked on other Washington-area radio and television stations, including WJLA-TV from 1975 until 1980, News Channel 8 in the early 1990s and WRC, hosting radio programs. He was married to Nancy, who is sighted, since 1957; they had two daughters and five grandchildren.

After a recent cancer diagnosis, Ed hosted one more Big Broadcast — taped in his hospital room and aired last night.

The Big Broadcast will continue on Sunday nights with interim host Rob Bamberger.

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