Radio host and former WTOP anchor Jim Bohannon dies at 78

Bohannon chats with Kate Ryan during a 1994 event. (File photo)
Jim Bohannon chats with WTOP’s Kate Ryan during a 1994 event. (File photo)

Longtime talk radio host Jim Bohannon, who anchored mornings at WTOP before hosting a national radio show, died at 78 on Saturday.

Bohannon’s voice was aired on 500 radio stations across the country. Besides WTOP, he also worked at D.C. radio stations WGAY, WRC and WWWT.

In 1983, Bohannon joined the Mutual Broadcasting System — later renamed Westwood One Radio. He anchored the hour-long America in the Morning news magazine, while hosting the Jim Bohannon Show on Saturday nights, according to his obituary.

He also filled in on Larry King’s radio show. When King left nighttime radio in the early 90s, Bohannon became that show’s permanent host. He hosted the Jim Bohannon Show until shortly before his death.



Military veteran turned radio legend

Bohannon was born Jan. 7, 1944, in Corvallis, Oregon, where his father was stationed during World War II.

After graduating from Missouri State University, his obituary stated Bohannon served in the U.S. Army Security Agency, which included a tour of duty in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968.

His time in radio started early on in his life — Bohannon worked for KLWT in high school, and KICK and KWTO in college.

He anchored on WTOP during a terrorist attack in 1977 where 150 people were taken hostage in three D.C. buildings. During the siege, he anchored for 21 hours straight.

Bohannon received a number of accolades for his work in radio. He was inducted into the National Broadcasting Hall of Fame, the National Radio Hall of Fame of the Museum of Broadcast Communication, and the Society of Professional Journalists D.C. Chapter Hall of Fame.

He was also the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Talkers Magazine, and the First Amendment Award from the Radio and Television Digital News Foundation.

Bohannon’s documentary “Pain and Pride — Remembering Vietnam,” received the Gold Award from the International Radio Festival of New York.

Condolences

Journalists, including former co-workers, shared messages remembering Bohannon.

WTOP reporter Kristi King tweeted:

WTOP’s Matt Small, who worked with Bohannon at the Mutual Broadcasting System, said he was proud of his time working with Bohannon.

“He mentored me early on in my career. He was a journalist who set an example for others with his passion, thoughtfulness and wit. When times got tough in and outside of the newsroom, I could always count on my friend. He is missed,” Small said.

WTOP Sports reporter Dave Preston wrote his condolences in a Facebook post:

“On my first shift at WGIR, I played carts and ran the board during the Jim Bohannon Show when it was a weekend late-night staple on Westwood One. Little did I know that ten years later I’d have the opportunity to anchor sports on ‘America in the Morning’. Great broadcaster. Even better guy. RIP,” Preston said.

WTOP anchor Dan Ronan, who also worked with Bohannon at the Mutual Broadcasting System, shared condolences in the following Facebook post:

“Jim and I joined MBS the same day, 4/4/83. He was a friend and mentor. A true Broadcasting legend,” Ronan said.

WTOP reporter and anchor Mike Murillo says he first met Bohannon when he was 10 years old.

“I am pretty sure back then I was probably one of his youngest listeners,” Murillo said. “I am so fortunate I had a chance to get to know him over the years and call him a friend. He was a mentor to so many, including myself.”

Murillo said one of his fondest memories was a crash course on the D.C. region he got from Bohannon at The Palm restaurant, shortly after moving to the area. He said there’s even a caricature of Bohannon on the wall of the restaurant.

“Among the memorable notes from Jim that I still have to this day, ‘Fauquier (pronounce this very, very, carefully).’ Radio has lost a legend and world lost an amazing human being. Rest easy, Jim,” Murillo said.

Michelle Murillo, Mike Murillo’s sister who is also a WTOP reporter, knew Bohannon well. Michelle said he gave her that first taste of being on the national airwaves.

“I knew it was coming, but you never really are ready to hear a legend has gone,” Michelle wrote. “Jim Bohannon was one of the most amazing people I have met, a Hall of Famer, top of the game, but always available to help those around him, especially new broadcasters. I can’t even begin to say how many people I have seen posting messages saying how much of a mentor he was. I have no idea how he managed to do it all.”

Bohannon is survived by his wife, Annabelle Bohannon, of Westminster South Carolina and his daughter, Elizabeth Smith.

There won’t be any funeral services, per Bohannon’s wishes. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to any organization that supports veterans. Those interested in writing a message of condolence can go to www.sandiferfuneralhome.com.

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

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