Rush Limbaugh, a media icon who was the pioneer of talk radio and built a career behind the microphone, died at the age of 70.
Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn, made the announcement on his radio show Wednesday.
The entertainer learned he had Stage IV lung cancer and his prognosis was terminal in February of last year. After learning of his fate, Limbaugh was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Trump at the State of the Union speech. America’s highest civilian honor to Limbaugh in an emotional moment on the heels of his devastating news.
Limbaugh was one of the most influential media figures in American history. “The Rush Limbaugh Show” began in 1988 and evolved into the top-rated program in syndication over the past four decades. The EIB Network show is aired on more than 600 stations, and heard by nearly 30 million people weekly.
Limbaugh was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on Jan. 12, 1951, and began his career in broadcasting at 16 as an assistant at a small radio station in 1967. According to the New York Times in 1990, Limbaugh said he idolized Chicago-based disc jockey Larry Lujack while growing up 100 miles outside of St. Louis. After local radio gigs in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Sacramento, Limbaugh landed at WABC in New York in the early 1980’s.
Shortly after his arrival in the Big Apple, Limbaugh became nationally syndicated to over 60 stations which grew steadily with the rise in political talk taking over the airwaves.
WBT’s Brett Winterble was one of Limbaugh’s producers during his time in New York and recently filled-in on the EIB network for his former boss.
“I got to work with the legends on this program. The names you know so well,” Winterble said in December.
“Talk radio is special because Rush makes it special. The reason why progressives and and the elites diss it, hate it, try to copy it, or try to ignore it, minimize it, you name it. The reason why they do it is because they want you to feel isolated.” He went on to say “Rush built this. He was the first guy to really take phone calls, not from just big cities but from America.”
Limbaugh was eventually enshrined in the Radio Hall of Fame and the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He was a five-time winner of the National Association of Broadcasters Marconi Award for “Excellence in Syndicated and Network Broadcasting,” a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author and was named one of Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People in 2008 and one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2009.
Limbaugh turned 70 a little over a month ago on January 12. During his final broadcast of 2020, he thanked his listeners for keeping his spirits up during a difficult end to the year.
“I wasn’t expected to be alive today,” he said. “I wasn’t expected to make it to October, and then to November, and then to December. And yet, here I am, and today, got some problems, but I’m feeling pretty good today.”
Limbaugh is survived by his wife, Kathryn.