Don Imus, pioneer of radio shock jock genre, has died
Radio shock jock Don Imus, one of the pioneers of his genre, died Friday less than two years after retiring, according to a family statement given to NBC New York.
He was 79.
He died Friday after being hospitalized at the Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in College Station, Texas, his family said. The cause of death was not divulged, but early this year Imus said on air that he had prostate cancer.
"Deirdre, his wife of 25 years, and his son Wyatt, 21, were at his side, and his son Lt. Zachary Don Cates is returning from military service overseas," the family said.
The controversial morning personality’s last day on the radio was March 29 of last year. He announced Jan. 22 that he was retiring, telling fans: “Turn out the lights ... the party's over."
The grizzled radio man was best known for his outsize cowboy hat and penchant for making controversial, often offensive, statements.
In 2007, MSNBC dropped its simulcast of the "Imus in the Morning" radio program after he used a racial slur to describe Rutgers University's mostly African American women’s basketball team.
Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News and MSNBC.
He was also fired from his gig on CBS radio for the same remark. He returned to the airwaves, at New York's WABC (AM), after eight months of exile.
Imus was born in Riverside, California, raised on a cattle ranch near Kingman, Arizona, and started in radio in New York in 1971, according to a bio released by his family Friday.
A challenging childhood that included an arrest for fighting and the divorce of his parents culminated in an unremarkable public school career, the bio states.
"He graduated with no honors and no skills, a rare stroke of luck because a broadcasting career required neither," it says.
Imus went on to take his acerbic tongue and steadfast identification with the American working man to the realm of ratings gold. He was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Radio Hall of Fame in 1989.
On Friday, friends and colleagues reacted to his demise.
"He will long be remembered as one of the true giants in the history of radio," New York sports radio legend Mike Francesa said on Twitter.
Joe Scarborough of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" said on Twitter that the program "obviously owes its format to Don Imus. No one else could have gotten away with that much talk on cable news."
Imus is also survived by four daughters: Nadine, Ashley, Elizabeth and Toni.