One of America's most notable television and radio news anchormen and commentators, George Putnam, has died. He was 94 years young, and everyone who knew him understands that, in George's case, 94 years of age really was young.
Mr. Putnam began his celebrated career on a Minneapolis radio station in 1934. He was the winner of three Emmy awards and, at one time, was the highest-rated and highest-paid TV news anchor in Los Angeles. He was also the recipient of six California Associated Press Television and Radio Association awards and more than 300 other honors and citations. It is said that George Putnam was the inspiration for the newscaster character, Ted Baxter, on the old Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Putnam detested labels but often called himself a "conservative Democrat." Having lived through the Great Depression, he spoke admiringly of President Franklin Roosevelt. He would also have to be called a Reagan Democrat, as he was never in want for a word of praise for his longtime friend, "Ronnie" Reagan. George was also a longtime member of the NAACP and the Urban League.
Many people with George Putnam's background would certainly find little in common with a "Christian conservative" such as me. I suppose because George Putnam was an independent thinker, however, he often asked me to be a guest on his radio show. This would usually take place after he had read one of my columns. By the time I would make it to the air, George was already "worked up."
"What the h--- are these people in Washington, D.C., doing to us, Chuck?" Mr. Putnam would ask. And then, for the next 30 minutes or hour, he and I would discuss current events.
For some reason, George liked me; and I know for sure that I liked him.
I have been interviewed by scores (perhaps hundreds) of journalists, reporters, newsmen, radio talk show hosts, etc., but nobody encouraged and energized me like George Putnam. I always considered a request by George Putnam for an interview to be the high-water mark of my interview schedule. In short, nobody did it better than George Putnam.
George Putnam was the real deal. He did not like phonies; and he hated the charade and chicanery that is currently going on in Washington, D.C., maybe even more than I do (and that is saying something).
As Mr. Putnam's health deteriorated, it was his co-host, producer, and announcer, Chuck Wilder, who would interview me. And let me add, Chuck Wilder is a terrific interviewer, as well. My most recent interview with Wilder was shortly before Mr. Putnam passed away. I remember telling Chuck, "Please tell George that I am praying for him." I hope he relayed my message.
I never knew Mr. Putnam on a personal level. I only knew him through his radio show and the interviews that he conducted with me. But that was enough. George Putnam was an American original. He commanded a booming voice and sharp wit. And he used both with great precision. It is doubtful that I will have the opportunity to be interviewed by someone of his caliber again. I will miss that.
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