For three decades, from the hostage crisis in Iran to Sept. 11 to the warfare in Iraq, listeners turned to Bob Edwards for insight, perspective and companionship. With Bob at the helm, Morning Edition became the most-listened-to program in public radio. Thirteen million people now tune in every week.
Over the years, Edwards conducted more than 20,000 interviews, with everyone from President Clinton to Hans Blix to Johnny Cash.
For longtime NPR listeners, Bob's weekly conversations with Red Barber are legendary. In 1981, the former Brooklyn Dodgers radio announcer came out of retirement and made his debut with Bob on Morning Edition. The conversations were supposed to be about sports — but they blossomed into something much more. Red and Bob talked about everything from human nature to the springtime camellias in Red's backyard. Their conversations went on to charm, delight, and surprise listeners for more than a decade, until Red's death in 1992. Edwards captured that experience and his friendship with Barber in his 1993 book, Fridays with Red.
Edwards' trademark delivery — probing and thoughtful — was matched by a wry sense of humor. Some listeners say they tuned in over the years just to hear Bob's odd and whimsical newsbits, which came at half past the hour in each show.
Edwards joined NPR in February 1974 when the organization was in its infancy. His first job was as associate producer for news. That made him NPR's only newscaster. Six months later, he became co-host of NPR's flagship evening news program, All Things Considered. Then in 1979, NPR executives borrowed him from that show for "a couple of weeks" to help launch a new morning program. Bob never made it back to the evening newsmagazine — instead, he stuck around and helped Morning Edition become what it is today.
Bob grew up in Louisville, Ky., a city that is still close to his heart. He went to the University of Louisville and began his radio career at a small station in New Albany, Ind., where he dee-jayed, covered the news, sold ads, and even fixed the plumbing. In the Army, he produced and anchored TV and radio news programs for the American Forces Korea Network (AFKN) in Seoul.
After his service in the Army, Edwards moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked as a weekend and evening anchorman for WTOP-AM, an all-news CBS affiliate. At the same time, he was earning a master's degree in broadcast journalism from American University.
Edwards and Morning Edition have earned dozens of awards, most recently a 1999 George Foster Peabody Award. In the award notification, the Peabody committee described the program as "two hours of daily in-depth news and entertainment expertly helmed by a man who embodies the essence of excellence in radio."
Edwards received the 1984 Edward R. Murrow Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for "outstanding contributions to public radio." The accompanying citation said, "Every station that carries Morning Edition can attest to Bob Edwards' extraordinary rapport with listeners.... In terms of his editorial leadership and on-air performance, Bob has created a standard for the industry."
In 1990, Edwards won a Gabriel Award from the National Catholic Association of Broadcasters for Born Drunk, a five-part Morning Edition series about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. He won his first Gabriel Award in 1987 for a Morning Edition story entitled Bill of Sale: A Black Heritage. In 1995, Edwards shared in NPR's Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for Changing of the Guard: The Republican Revolution, given to NPR for its coverage of the first 100 days of the 104th Congress. Edwards is a national vice president of AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Edwards and his wife Sharon have three children and one grandchild. Edwards left NPR in 2004 to work as a host for XM Satellite Radio.