At age 70, news commentator Paul Harvey is a museum piece, but he isn't letting that interfere with his three daily radio shows, his newspaper column or his speaking tours.
"Tomorrow's the most exciting day in the world to me," Harvey said recently, and he has plenty of tomorrows planned - new directions for his syndicated television program, a new second home and studio in Phoenix and adding a helicopter rating to his aviation licenses.He was recently inducted into Chicago's Museum of Broadcast Communications.
"I won't retire until I find something that's more fun to do," Harvey said, gesturing around his office-studio, decorated with civic awards, keys to cities and cartoons.
Harvey got his start at 15 with radio station KVOO in his native Tulsa, Okla. His name was Paul H. Aurandt back then, and it remained so through stints in Kansas, St. Louis and Kalamazoo, Mich. He changed it on taking his first Chicago job in 1944.
Now, when he says "Good morning, Americans, this is Paul Harvey," he speaks to an estimated 22 million listeners on 1,348 radio stations, but Harvey tries to concentrate on one person.
"I'm usually talking to my wife's sister," Harvey said. "She seems to epitomize grass-roots America to me. I keep asking myself, `Would Aunt Betty really care? Would Aunt Betty really understand?' A lot of stories get rewritten or discarded because of that."
Harvey shrugs off such adjectives as "cornball" and criticism of his format, in which ominous headlines are often juxtaposed with cute animal stories and Harvey's comments.
"Hard, cold facts have to be made palatable with some leavening - but you can't use too much of that leavening. No one wants to listen to just good news, after all - it's been tried and it doesn't work."
He also does his own commercials, delivering them in the same tone of voice as the news itself. The practice is a Harvey trademark - and he defends it, saying, "I use the products myself and I can vouch for them."
Interviewer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel, who has been on Chicago radio since 1945, says he understands Harvey's popularity but does not necessarily approve of the reasons.
"At a certain point in the New Deal and a certain point in the war, Paul said the usual, expected things," Terkel said. "Paul was offering pretty simplistic views, and they caught on like a house afire. I guess they were what some people wanted to hear.
"He's a nice guy, a very honest guy and a very fair-minded guy," said Terkel. "I like him very much personally, but I don't have much in common with his views. In some ways, he's confined his mind to the 12th century - and it's not the 12th century anymore. He sees things in blacks and whites, and the world is more complex than he realizes."
Harvey's family - he and wife Lynne have been married 47 years - has sometimes influenced his broadcasts, as when he reversed himself on the Vietnam War. He signaled the shift in a broadcast that opened: "I love you, Mr. President, but you're wrong . . . "
"I changed my mind about Vietnam after a painful period of several months of soul-searching and discussions - often around our own dinner table," he said. "My son, Paul Jr., was exempt, but he felt so strongly about the war that he chose to announce himself as a conscientious objector anyway."
It was the Cold War that brought Harvey to national prominence. Working as an ABC radio commentator in 1951, he was arrested on orders of the Atomic Energy Commission for scaling a fence and surreptitiously entering Argonne National Laboratory, west of Chicago.