died the other day, aged 95 and just weeks after broadcasting his final Letter from America. This page contains well-merited tributes to him and excerpts and transcripts from the longest-running speech radio programme in history.
I remember listening to his distinctive, gravelly voice literally as a child at my father’s knee. I liked his voice. After a while it dawned on me that I liked and was learning from what he was saying too.
From all the vast range of topics he covered, this obituary couldn’t resist the opportunity to cherry-pick.
The lyricism of his broadcasting and the urbanity of his voice did not disguise his fears for America which he saw becoming a more violent society.
A liberal by nature, he reserved particular dislike for what he saw as the shallow flag-waving of the Reagan presidency.
True, he was a liberal. I would guess he voted Democrat for most of the many, many US elections he covered. But he was a liberal of a different era, or more accurately of a more timeless sort. He started writing for the Guardian when it was the Manchester Guardian and started speaking for the BBC when it was what I once meant by the BBC.
His character changed a great deal less than that of the institutions he worked for. Despite that – correction, because of it – he was an acute observer until the very end. Here’s a letter he wrote last Christmas about the urgency of fighting the Iraq war.
Wonder why News Online didn’t pick that one for the obituary?