Radio icon Don Imus, who was born in Riverside and whose broadcasting career began in Palmdale and spanned nearly five decades, died Friday at the age of 79.
According to family representatives, Imus died while undergoing treatment at White Medical Center in College Station, Texas, where he had been hospitalized since Tuesday.
The cause of death was not released, but Imus had battled prostate cancer for years following his diagnosis in 2009, according to published reports.
Deirdre, his wife of 25 years, and his 21-year-old son Wyatt were at his side. The family’s statement also mentioned that his adopted son Zachary Don Cates, who overcame leukemia and was an early participant of the Imus Ranch Program for Kids, which offers outdoor opportunities for children with cancer, “was returning from military service overseas.”
The sharp-witted broadcaster, whose last broadcast was in March 2018, was 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 men 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 show 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.
According to his biography, John Donald Imus Jr. was 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 an instrument for 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. “Imus in the Morning” debuted on WNBC in New York City in 1971.
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