Riverside-born radio icon Don Imus dies at 79

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Radio icon Don Imus, who was born in Riverside and whose career spanned nearly five decades in broadcasting, died today at the age of 79.

According to family representatives, Imus died while undergoing treatment for an undisclosed illness at White Medical Center in College Station, Texas, where he had been since Tuesday.

A statement released to media by the family noted that the nationally acclaimed radio personality loved his wife, Deirdre; his son, Wyatt; and his adopted son, Zachary, who overcame leukemia and was an early participant of the Imus Ranch Program for Kids, which offers outdoor opportunities for children with cancer.

Imus battled prostate cancer for years following his diagnosis in 2009, according to published reports.

The sharp-witted broadcaster was best known for his “Imus in the Morning” program, a three-hour daily mix of satire, observational humor, political jabs and other entertainment.

Imus’ brash style gained him a wide following, especially among males 25 and older, but it also landed him in hot water. In 2007, his offhanded but demeaning comments about the looks of the Rutgers women’s basketball team prompted his firing from CBS Radio and MSNBC.

Imus made a comeback two years later under contract with the Fox Business Network, which slotted his Imus in the Morning from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays, during which the furrowed, silver-haired broadcast legend would interact with Fox News anchors, covering an array of topics.

He retired from broadcasting last year.

According to his biography, John Donald Imus Jr. was born in Riverside on July 23, 1940. His family soon departed California for mile-high country in Prescott, Arizona, where Imus spent his childhood.

He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after dropping out of high school and ended up playing in the USMC Band.

After his stint in the Marines, Imus changed hats multiple times, working in a uranium mine, staging mannequins in storefront windows and working as a railroad crewman, during which he suffered a neck injury on the job and received a sizable legal settlement.

He broke into broadcasting in 1971 at a radio station in Palmdale, then months later went to another one in Stockton and a third in Sacramento, all the while honing his skills as an entertainer, often relying on what in the future would become known as “shock jock” shtick.

During his disc jockey run on KXOA in Sacramento, the station hit No. 1 for that market, according to published reports.

Imus in the Morning debuted on WNBC in New York City in 1971, and from then on, his broadcast career was on a glidepath to ever-increasing success.