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Updated: Ward L. Quaal Passes

September 26, 2010: Radio Ink hears the sad news that beloved and legendary broadcaster Ward L. Quaal has died at age 91. Quaal had been in a Chicago-area nursing home for the past year and died of age-related causes.

Quaal, a dedicated and effective advocate for the broadcast industry, began his career on WGN/Chicago as an announcer in 1941 and was one of those who broadcast the first bulletins on the attack on Pearl Harbor. After a stint in the Navy during World War II, he rejoined WGN in 1945.

Quaal spent time in the '50s as VP and assistant GM for Crosley Broadcasting in Cincinnati, and returned to WGN in 1956 as VP/GM. He moved up to president of then-WGN owner and Tribune precursor WGN Continental in 1961.

Quaal served on the board of Broadcasters Foundation forerunner the Broadcast Pioneers from 1963-1973 and served as chair of the foundation from 1994-1997; he retired as a foundation director in 2003. The Broadcasters Foundation in 2008 renamed its annual Pioneer Award the Ward L. Quaal Broadcast Pioneer Award, and the organization at that time credited Quaal with developing WGN Radio and WGN TV to "iconoclastic status in the broadcasting industry."

Quaal served on the original FCC advisory panel on advanced television systems, and in 1973 received the NAB's Distinguished Service Award.

NAB's Smith: 'Visionary Giant'

"Free and local broadcasting was built by a handful of visionary giants, but few stood taller than Ward Quaal," NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith said in a statement. "During his long and storied career, Ward Quaal built WGN into an institution whose impact extended far beyond Chicago, and he counted as friends even those who occupied the Oval Office. NAB extends our sympathy to the Quaal family and we mourn the passing of this broadcast pioneer."

Ward Quaal is survived by his wife, Dorothy, and their two children, a granddaughter, and three great-grandsons. There is as yet no word on funeral arrangements.

Radio Ink extends its condolences to Quaal's family and his many friends.

An interview of Quaal about his life and career, recorded in 2004 for the tribute website, can be heard here.

(9/28/2010 3:09:35 PM)
I wrote in the other night that my grandfather had a granddaughter (me) and three great-grandsons, as the original article did not say this. Thank you very much for adding this information. It may be too late, but I made an oversight and neglected to also say that he is survived by a very loving daughter-in-law and grandson-in-law. If it is at all possible to still put this information in, I know the family would appreciate it. You were the first reporting as far as I know, and it seems many publications followed your lead. Thank you again for honoring my granfather and the legend that he was. We all miss him.

- Debbie Quaal Akers

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