It will soon be five years since the death of legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey. I’ll never forget the privilege of meeting him. I had been working with Billy Graham (who was Mr. Harvey’s age, by the way) on his memoir Just As I Am, and Mr. Graham was reminiscing about a 1957 event at Times Square in New York City.
There, at the conclusion of his several weeks of preaching at Madison Square Garden, hundreds of thousands jammed the streets for a final outdoor meeting.
ABC television broadcast the event live, and Mr. Graham said, “Paul Harvey was their reporter.”
I said, “I would love to get his memories of that.”
I’ve worked with a lot of famous people, yet I remain amazed at their ability to get other famous people to take their calls. Mr. Graham immediately asked his secretary if she could get Paul Harvey on the phone. A few minutes later the two were talking, and I heard Mr. Graham ask Mr. Harvey if I could come and interview him.
A few weeks later I reached the top floor of a Chicago office building that Paul Harvey News occupied in its entirety. I was struck by the ceremonial keys to cities and honorary doctorates that lined every hallway. It was from him I stole the line, “If I get one more honorary doctorate, I’m going to start seeing patients.” (If I’m not mistaken, Paul Harvey received more of these than anyone else in history.)
He wore a blue smock, like doctors wear, as he scurried about collecting news bits off the teletype wires and writing his own newscast. When it was time to broadcast live from his own studio, he removed the smock and put his suit coat on over his shirt and tie. “You dress up for work,” he said. “Shouldn’t I?”
He allowed me to sit right next to him as he waited for his cue, first exercising his voice by breaking into a loud, “Mee may mah mow moo!”
He hummed and coughed and cleared his throat, and when he got the signal from behind the glass, he shouted so loudly that I nearly jumped out of my chair.
“Hello, Americans! This is Paul Harvey!”
I’ll never forget that, nor will I forget the flavor he gave the Times Square anecdote for Mr. Graham’s Just As I Am. He remembered every detail, from the temperature to the excitement in the air caused by the shoulder-to-shoulder masses who crowded the streets.
The two giants were friends, and Paul Harvey was an outspoken believer in Christ. So we know where he is now.
Jerry B. Jenkins is co-author of the NYT bestselling Left Behind series and has written the biographies of numerous famous Christians, including Billy Graham, Luis Palau, Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Walter Payton, Orel Hershiser, Joe Gibbs, and Mike Singletary.