Jackson Weaver, 72, a Washington, D.C., broadcaster who co-anchored WMAL-AM’s morning drive-time slot for 32 years, died Oct. 20 of heart and kidney failure at Holy Cross Hospital there.
Weaver was half of Harden and Weaver, one of the most durable teams in radio history. In a market noted for transient politicians and bureaucrats, the two virtually rival the monuments as a D.C. institution. They have endured because of folksy, unassuming and dependable humor that gently coaxed several generations of office workers through the morning rush hour.
When AM radio was king, the popular duo made the Washington Star-owned station, later sold to ABC, one of the nation’s most profitable radio properties. It is said that in its heyday, so dominant was their audience that more people tuned to Harden and Weaver in any 15-minute period than listened to any other station all week long.
The team’s popularity has long puzzled many. They played very little music on their show, and Weaver’s penchant for imaginary characters such as the feisty Sen. Foghorn was distinguished mostly for its corniness. But it was precisely the lack of polish that defined the two and made them such a fixture. Their show remains competitive even in an FM-dominated market. Among other things, they were noted for their efforts for charity, raising more than $ 7 million for Children’s Hospital via contributions and the annual Harden and Weaver golf tournament.
Weaver was born in Buffalo, N.Y., where he began his broadcast career. He joined WMAL in 1942 but was not teamed up with Harden until 1960.
He freelanced for years as an announcer, gaining national prominence as the voice of Smokey the Bear, one of the most recognizable public service campaigns. Jackson suffered from diabetes and had been hospitalized earlier this year. His last broadcast was Oct. 14. He is survived by his wife, Elsie, three sons and four grandchildren.