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One of the most distinctive voices in television news has died. Andy Rooney was a signature essayist for CBS News. He died last night in New York at the age of 92. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik has this remembrance.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Rooney was one of the most famous curmudgeons in American public life. And not just on TV. He typically refused to sign autographs or to respond to letters from fans. His now famous gig with CBS's "60 Minutes" started on July 2nd, 1978. It was initially called "Three Minutes or So With Andy Rooney." And in it, he questioned warnings over the perils of driving during the Independence Day holiday.


ANDY ROONEY: We were curious about the car death figures and how they fit into the total picture of our demise in America.

FOLKENFLIK: As ever, Rooney, was the contrarian.


ROONEY: It turns out that the Fourth of July is really quite a very safe weekend for us.

FOLKENFLIK: The segment soon became a distinctive and weekly bookend to the show's exposes and profiles. It was also a new and defining chapter in Rooney's career.

Andy Rooney was born and raised in Albany, New York in 1919. He left Colgate University during World War II to become a reporter for the Army publication "Stars and Stripes." Rooney told his friend and "60 Minutes" colleague Morley Safer that he had initially been a reluctant warrior.


ROONEY: I thought it was wrong to go into any war, and I got to the war and saw the Germans and I changed my mind. I decided we were right going into World War II.

FOLKENFLIK: Rooney flew with Army Air Force bombers during raids over Germany in 1943 and he landed at Normandy just after D-Day. He gained recognition for his crisp writing and bravery under fire. He joined CBS several years after World War II, first as a writer for top entertainment shows, later for news. Rooney contributed his own essays and reported pieces, some of them quite serious about war and fraud and other hard news stories. But in his trademark essays, he painted in miniature. Here he was on the estimated 1.5 billion people who buy things online.


ROONEY: Some of those figures I doubt - but even if it's true, the idea of buying something I can't see or touch just doesn't interest me at all.

FOLKENFLIK: On airport security after the September 2001 attacks.


ROONEY: I hate to say this; I love saying things I hate to say, but the airlines are in more trouble than they know because flying simply is not fun anymore.

FOLKENFLIK: On being a sucker for kitchen tools.


ROONEY: Over the years, I've filled our kitchen drawers with gadgets we never use. This seemed like a good idea at the time. It's for grating Parmesan cheese. Well, we buy cheese already grated now.

FOLKENFLIK: At times, he offended viewers, and was briefly suspended for remarks about gays and blacks. But even Rooney's less controversial remarks inspired material for countless comedians.


FRANK CALIENDO: Well, he just reminds me of what a great country we live in, where a person can watch somebody slowly go insane on television.


FOLKENFLIK: That's Frank Caliendo, here with an impression on Rooney figuring out the iPhone.


CALIENDO: You're probably wondering the same thing I am. Where's the long curly cord?


CALIENDO: Maybe it comes in a separate package. Forty years ago - when I was 75.


FOLKENFLIK: In early October, the real Rooney offered his valedictory essay.


ROONEY: When I went on television, it was as a writer. I don't think of myself as a television personality. I'm a writer - who reads what he's written.

FOLKENFLIK: Ever the grouch, he asked viewers to leave him alone in retirement. But he smiled. As Rooney told viewers on that last appearance, he had led a lucky life. David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.

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