Morning Edition's 20th Anniversary

Just after midnight, on the morning of November 5, 1979, a young broadcaster got himself out of bed, dressed and headed for the first day of a 30-day assignment to host a brand new morning program. Twenty years later, Bob Edwards still is hosting Morning Edition, rising in the early morning hours and providing National Public Radio listeners a daily two-hour portrait of the day that awaits them.

Listen to some of the memorable moments from the 20 years of Morning Edition broadcasts.

Conceived as a friendly, early-morning companion, Morning Edition presents a daily blend of in-depth news reports; newscasts; features on science, arts, and business; newsmaker interviews and profiles; human interest features; sports, social, political, and musical commentary.

Some 523 NPR stations carry Morning Edition. And according to the most recent RRC/Arbitron estimates, the program reaches a weekly audience of 8.4 million people.

In its first year, Morning Edition was honored for broadcasting excellence with the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award and the George Polk Award.

Certain contributors have become identified with the program.

  • Carl Kasell -- the Official Judge and Scorekeeper for NPR's weekly news quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! -- has been providing newscasts at the top of each hour of the program since its inception.

  • Sports commentator Frank Deford has delivered more than 850 commentaries, and that number will be close to 900 by the time Morning Edition celebrates its 20th anniversary in November 1999.

  • Legendary sportscaster Red Barber came out of retirement and appeared 629 times -- between 1980 and 1992 -- to talk about sports, camellias, cats, and whatever else was on his mind.

  • Cowboy poet, philosopher, and former large animal veterinarian Baxter Black made his first appearance on July 8, 1988.

  • Washington Post critic Tom Shales has contributed more than 375 reviews of television and films. Rumor has it that he actually has given something a favorable review, but this cannot be confirmed.

On July 4, 1988, Morning Edition began an annual tradition of hosts, reporters, newscasters, and commentators reading the Declaration of Independence.

On December 23, 1992, professional apartment cleaner and soon-to-be successful writer, David Sedaris made the first of many appearances. In what has become one of public radio's signature moments, Sedaris recounted his strange-but-true experiences working for Macy's department store as Crumpet, a Christmas elf clad in green tights.

Bob Edwards joined NPR in 1974 when the organization was in its third year of operation. Prior to becoming host of Morning Edition, he was co-host of NPR's evening newsmagazine All Things Considered.

Bob conducts more than 800 interviews each year covering politics, international affairs, education, labor, economics, sports, the arts and entertainment. His 1993 book, Fridays with Red, chronicles his radio friendship with sports broadcasting legend Red Barber, with whom he talked about sports, camellias, and the nature of man every Friday morning for nearly 12 years.

"Everyone feels they know Bob. We did research for our anniversary to see where we've been and where we should be going, and the one thing that constantly came through is his warmth. People really believe they know Colonel Bob from Kentucky, that he's their friend. It's stunning." - Current Executive Producer Ellen McDonnell in The Los Angeles Times.

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Bob Edwards earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Louisville and began his career at a small radio station in New Albany, Indiana. While serving in the U.S. 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, while earning a master's degree in broadcast journalism from The American University.

Bob was awarded the 1984 Edward R. Murrow Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for "outstanding contributions to public radio." The accompanying citation says, "Every station that carries Morning Edition can attest to Bob Edwards' extraordinary rapport with listeners....In terms of his editorial leadership and on­air performance, Bob has created a standard for the industry."