The All Things Radio team pays tribute to Ed Walker, broadcast veteran and pioneer with 65 years of radio experience in the Washington D.C. area.
Ed Walker, who amused and entertained Washington-area radio listeners for 65 years, and half of “The Joy Boys” radio team with Willard Scott, died October 26, 2015, just hours after his final broadcast. He was 83. Born blind, Ed Walker by the age of 8, was operating a low-power radio transmitter in his family’s basement, broadcasting to neighbors.
Ed Walker graduated in 1950 from the Maryland School for the Blind in Baltimore and was the first blind student to attend American University. The District’s vocational rehabilitation agency, which funded his college scholarship, wanted him to study sociology in order to become a social worker, one of the few professional career paths open to the blind at the time. Edinsisted on pursuing a career in broadcasting. He completed his communications degree in 1954.
Ed partnered with Willard Scott, who would go on to become the weatherman on NBC’s “Today” show. They called themselves “The Joy Boys of Radio, Chasing Electrons Too and Fro!”
They worked on WRC from 1955 to 1972, and then on WWDC until 1974.
Ed Walker went on to work at radio stations WPGC and WMAL and television stations WJLA and Newschannel 8. Among the programs he hosted on WMAL was “Play It Again,” a retrospective of music from the big band era. He also hosted a weekly magazine show for NPR aimed at the disabled called “Connection.”
In 1990, Ed Walker took over hosting “The Big Broadcast”, airing Sunday Nights from 7 to 11 on WAMU 88.5, originally beginning in 1964 as “Recollections.” Each week, he invited listeners to “settle back, relax and enjoy,” as he discussed and played classic old time radio shows including “Yours Truly,” “Johnny Dollar,” “Dragnet” and “Gunsmoke.”
Long after “The Joy Boys,” Ed continued to work with Willard Scott on NBC’s “Today”. Among other duties, Ed handled people seeking recognition for a friend or relative celebrating their 100th birthday, and helped produce the short tributes that Scott read on the air.
Ed never attempted to conceal his blindness, but seldom mentioned it. “When I first got into this business, I never let it be known on the air that I didn’t see,” he told The Washington Post in 1985. “Not that I was ashamed of it. It was in my mind that if I was going to be successful in this business, it was because I was a good performer, not because people felt sorry for me.” From his earliest days on the air, he used a Braille writer to produce scripts. While on the air, he kept his left hand on a Braille clock to maintain the precise timing necessary to hit the “marks” for commercials or the end of his show.
Survivors include his wife of 58 years, Nancy Murphy Walker, one daughter, and eight grandchildren. Another daughter, Carole Potter, died in 2004. Ed was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2009 as a local-radio pioneer.
Ed Walker spent 65 years on the radio. His last program was unlike any other.
’60s Radio days: a sillier, simpler time
Ed Walker: The Bands Play On WMAL’s Sunday Morning King, Bringing Back the Old Times (1985)
Ed Walker, Host Of The Big Broadcast, On His Early Start In Radio (2012, WAMU)
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