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George Putnam, R.I.P.

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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 13, 2008 05:16 AM

Just heard sad news. Los Angeles TV newsman and talk radio legend George Putnam has died. He was 94. George showed me great kindness, championing my book Invasion and inviting me on his show frequently to talk about immigration enforcement and national security when few outside the border states cared. He penned a weekly online column right up until the last few months of his life. He had a rich, full, colorful career. He was a gentleman and a patriot. And I was glad and grateful to know him.

Once, during a live radio interview, my then-two-year-old daughter woke up from a nap in her bedroom next to my home office. George heard her calling for me — and so did his entire listening audience. I braced for the producer to cut off the segment and chastise me. Instead, George welcomed her to the airwaves and dubbed it my daughter’s first official radio appearance. He loved recounting that moment with me over the years and I loved recounting it to my daughter and family.

I’ll tell my daughter the story again today. With a big lump in my throat.

***

George’s radio network, CRN, has a memorial tribute here.


Here’s
the obituary at my old newspaper, the LA Daily News. Excerpt:

Former Los Angeles television news anchor George Putnam, whose booming, iconic voice famously inspired the character of Ted Baxter on the classic sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” died in his sleep Friday at a Chino hospital where he was being treated for liver and kidney ailments. He was 94.

Born in Minnesota, Putnam first worked in radio in Minneapolis before coming to Los Angeles in 1951 and moving to television. He served as news anchor at a number of Los Angeles TV stations for a quarter of a century, working from the early 1950s until 1975 at KTTV 11, KCOP 13, KTLA 5 and KHJ (now KCAL 9).

“The thing I remember most is that George had this personal contact with the viewers at home – they really would listen to him,” recalls Stan Chambers, who was news director at KTLA during Putnam’s tenure there and still works as a reporter for the station today.

“He was never at a loss for words,” Chambers continued…

…Ted Knight, who played old-school newscaster Ted Baxter on “The Mary Tyler Moore” show, based the character in part on Putnam and to a lesser extent on another L.A. newscasting icon, Jerry Dunphy. In a 1981 interview, Knight recalled encountering Putnam at a banquet, where the newsman said to him, “Hey, Ted, why don’t you get your own act?”

More about George from his Newsmax bio:

Always dedicated and hard working, George rose up from humble beginnings in St. Paul, Minnesota to build an illustrious career, which began on his 20th birthday in 1934 at WDGY, Minneapolis. Since then he has worked as a newsman, reporter and commentator for most of the major broadcasting organizations in the United States including NBC, ABC, Mutual, Dumont and Metromedia. His investigative reports influenced the exit of a district attorney, elected a mayor (Sam Yorty) and brought about the property tax saving measure Proposition 13. He’s covered crime stories over the past 68 years and actually had the scoop and broke key details on the some of the most high-profile cases in American history, including the Manson murders, Barbara Graham, L. Ewing Scott, and the Freeway murders.

During WWII, George served first in the Army and later as a First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, winning two citations during his three-year stay. Prior to entering service in WWII, he acted as Master of Ceremonies for “The Army Hour” and he and Lowell Thomas shared the role as the voice of Fox Movietone News. While George achieved early success in New York (where Walter Winchell described his voice as “the greatest in radio and television”), he has been a fixture on the Los Angeles news scene since 1951.

He’s perhaps the one reporter who interviewed the four most decorated war heroes – Sgt. Alvin York, Audie Murphy, Joe Hooper and Col. David Hackworth. He has covered every presidency since Herbert Hoover, whom he interviewed after he was out of office and has known most of the big names in politics – Nixon and Reagan in particular – whom he knew on a first-name basis before they rose to prominence. At one point when George was the highest rated television newsman and anchor in Los Angeles, he was urged to run for governor of the state of California. He chose instead to support his friend Ronnie.

For almost a quarter of a century, George Putnam’s daily “Talk Back” program on LA’s powerhouse KRLA was a blend of two-way conversation with in-studio guests, newsmakers across the nation and his listeners who are likely to hear people of all ages and from all walks of life. Regardless of who is on the phone or in studio, George draws on his wealth of experience and instinct as a newsman to stimulate lively and thoughtful conversation on issues facing us every day… whether serious or lighthearted. Always on top of the latest happenings in the world, George’s “One Reporter’s Opinion” has become a very popular op-ed column on the Internet via top news services such as NewsMax.com.

The West’s most honored newsman, George Putnam added one more accolade to his remarkable career in 1995 – the prestigious Los Angeles Area Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The award recognizes an individual who has made a special and unique contribution to LA area television. He is the recipient of four Emmys, six California Associated Press Television & Radio Association awards, eight annual Radio & Television News Club awards and over 300 other honors and citations for service to country, community and mankind.

R.I.P.

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