Former Crosley broadcasting executive Ward Quaal, 1919-2010. Quaal died Friday in a Chicago-area hospital. He was 91.
"Free and local broadcasting was built by a handful of visionary giants, but few stood taller than Ward Quaal," Gordon Smith, president and chief executive of the National Association of Broadcasters, said in a statement. Quaal received the NAB's Distinguished Service Award in 1973. The trade publication Broadcasting & Cable honored him as one of the "Top 100 Broadcasters of the Century." The Library of American Broadcasting included him on its list of "The First 50 Giants of Broadcasting." The Broadcasters Foundation renamed its annual Pioneer Award after Quaal in 2008.
Quaal, who grew up in Ishpeming, Mich., in the Upper Peninsula, got his start in radio as a teen at what was then WBEO-AM in Marquette, Mich., and worked as an announcer at Detroit's WJR-AM while still in college.
He came to Chicago after four years with Crosley Broadcasting and WLW-AM in Cincinnati, a year after Tribune boss Col. Robert W. McCormick's death to help boost the company's sagging broadcast assets.
"Radio went through major changes during the 1950s and 1960s as live orchestras went away and dramas and soaps moved to TV," Langmyer said in his memo.
Quaal was known to take a dictation machine wherever he went, and kept four to six secretaries busy transcribing with his musings. He reportedly experimented with having a television set in his car, which was driven by a former police officer.
"Ward was a real gentleman," Tribune Co. Chief Executive Randy Michaels said. Quaal, who counted President Ronald Reagan among his friends, was a member of the Federal Communications Commission's original advisory panel on advanced television systems. He would become an outspoken critic of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the consolidation of the broadcasting industry it precipitated.
"They've wrecked radio," Quaal said in the 2004 edition of "The Museum of Broadcast Communications Encyclopedia of Radio." "How can you own more than one hundred stations and keep track of their local programming?"
Quaal's survivors include his wife, Dorothy, son Graham and daughter Jennifer, a granddaughter and three great-grandsons. Funeral arrangements are pending.