Newscaster Carl Kasell of NPR’s “Morning Edition” Dies at 84

NPR’s most recognized voice, Carl Kasell, passed away Tuesday at his home in Potomac, Maryland. He died from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease at the age of 84 according to his wife, Mary Ann Foster. Kasell had a three decade career as a newsman at National Public Radio and enjoyed a second, more laid back career as the judge of the light hearted news call in show “Wait…Wait Don’t Tell Me!”. The serious newsman with a fun side left behind a legacy.

He was destined for radio

When he was a boy growing up in Goldsboro, North Carolina, Carl Kasell was drawn to the radio. He remembered sitting behind the radio and reporting the news along with the newsmen of the day and even announcing the commercials. He also loved playing records on his grandmother’s old Victrola.

In high school Kasell took drama classes instructed by teacher, Andy Griffith, who advised him to go into theater. Kasell was drawn to disc jockeying instead. His first gig as a DJ was for a late night music show at a local station when he was 16. Kasell studied English at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he helped launch the college radio station WUNC.

Kasell didn’t graduate from UNC but, instead, joined the United States Army. When he returned to Goldsboro, Kasell worked as a DJ at WGBR before he was persuaded to join the all news station at WAVA in Northern Virginia. While there, he helped launch the broadcasting career of intern Katie Couric.

NPR

Carl Kasell built a solid career in news broadcasting which his serious baritone voice was well matched. Kasell reported on major breaking news stories including the Vietnam War and the assassinations of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. Kasell joined National Public Radio in Washington DC in 1975 as a part time news reporter. Four years later, Carl Kasell began the NPR news show “Morning Edition” which would last for three decades. His steady serious delivery of the news each morning became as iconic as his measured baritone voice.

Another side to the serious newsman

Listeners didn’t know it, but Carl Kasell wasn’t always a serious newsman. He had a lighthearted, witty side which family, friends and co-workers were able to witness. In 1998 NPR began a call in news quiz show “Wait…Wait Don’t Tell Me!”. Hosted by Peter Sagal, Kasell served as the show’s judge. The world got to hear a different side of Kasell. He was funny and had a great sense of humor. Kasell was always game to the show’s shenanigans. He performed stunts and even did voice impersonations of pop culture celebrities including Henry Kissinger, Brittany Spears and Lindsay Lohen. When the show began the budget was too small for prizes, so Kasell would record a voice mail message on the winner’s voice mail. The show grew popular and was performed in front of a live audience with over 6 million listeners.

Honors and Retirement

Carl Kasell received several honors for his work in broadcasting including the George Foster Peabody Award and induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame. In 2013, Kasell was named the North Carolinian of the year. During his last broadcast on NPR in 2014, callers included President Barack Obama, Katie Couric, Stephen Colbert and Tom Hanks. After he retired, Kasell published his memoir “Wait…Wait I’m Not Done Yet!”.

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