Ty Wansley, popular radio news anchor and talk-show host, dies at 63

SHARE Ty Wansley, popular radio news anchor and talk-show host, dies at 63
SHARE Ty Wansley, popular radio news anchor and talk-show host, dies at 63

Ty Wansley started his radio career straight out of community college, diligently working his way up to become a fixture on Chicago’s black radio stations over the course of more than 40 years in the business.

Mr. Wansley, who was news and information director for three iHeartMedia stations — urban contemporary WGCI-FM (107.5), urban adult-contemporary WVAZ-FM (V103) and gospel WGRB-AM (Inspiration 1390) — died Wednesday night at Northwestern Memorial Hospital of congestive heart failure. He was 63.

“Chicago lost a legend in Ty Wansley,” Matt Scarano, market president of iHeartMedia Chicago said in an emailed statement. “Over his vast career, Ty interviewed community leaders, mayors, congressmen, governors, and presidents with ease.He most enjoyed his interaction with listeners and the community. We will all miss his passion, wit, and friendship.”

The popular radio news anchor and talk-show host, who had suffered a previous heart attack and stroke in the last year, was admitted to Northwestern last week, friends said.He anchored weekday morning news for V103’s Steve Harvey Morning Show and for Inspiration 1390’s Angela & Mark in the A.M. He also hosted two highly rated weekend talk shows, V103’s “Chicago Speaks,” and “Chicago Insight,” on WGCI and Inspiration 1390.

“Ty was one of the most likable people I ever met. He was somebody that people liked to talk to, because he had this warm personality on the air, even when he was discussing controversial issues,” said fellow radio legend Richard Steele of WBEZ. “He made the radio acceptable to the black community. People knew they could call him and express their opinions without a beat-down. I never saw him angry.”

Ty Wansley | St. Louis Media History Foundation photo

Born Thaxter Wansley, he grew up in Hillsboro, Missouri, where he attended Jefferson Community College, according to the St. Louis Media Foundation’s radio history archives. He started his radio career in 1972, working as a newscaster in the 1970s at two St. Louis powerhouse radio stations, KWK and KATZ, and at KKSS and KMJM.

He eventually became national news director for Sheridan Broadcasting, and later for Amaturo Broadcasting, where he oversaw news departments of stations in St. Louis, Miami, Houston and Detroit. He moved to Chicago in 1979 to head the news departments at WBMX and WJPC. He became a talk show host at WVON-AM in 1982, with his popular “Tell Ty.”

“When WVON switched to all talk, he was our very first radio host,” noted Melody Spann-Cooper, president of WVON and chairman of parent company Midway Broadcasting Corp. “Ty loved news, especially Chicago news. He loved the citizens of Chicago, and he was invested. He was so much a part of Chicago. He will be missed.”

After “Tell Ty,” news/talk WLS-AM (890) recruited Mr. Wansley to join the ABC talk show lineup, which evolved into a controversial but unique talk-show tag-team with former Ald. Edward R. Vrdolyak. He caught flak in the black community in 1993 for teaming with the man who had headed the Vrdolyak 29 block that had fought the late Mayor Harold Washington. But the short-lived show was immensely successful, evolving into a second collaboration on WJJD-AM.

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Ty Wansley | iHeartMedia photo

“He was a wonderful, caring and private person who had very strong convictions and lived by them,” Vrdolyak told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We worked together well. We were friends then, and we were friends now.”

On Thursday, condolences poured in from community leaders to media personalities and politicians he had interviewed or worked with.

“Ty Wansley was one of Chicago’s great radio voices,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “Whether he was questioning leadership or informing his listeners, Ty brought a great passion and perspective to the news. He was adored in our communities and his body of work was a credit to our city. The thoughts and prayers of the City of Chicago are with Ty’s family, friends, and many fans.”

Aside from his radio career, Wansley hosted the TV news magazine “Urban Street” on Weigel Broadcasting WCIU-Channel 26. He had been a featured guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and was showcased on the Jim Lehrer “News Hour” on PBS, “Entertainment Tonight,” “Extra,” ABC, NBC and CNN. He also has been featured by Emerge and Jet magazines.

Survivors include two brothers, Larry and Danny. Plans for a memorial service in St. Louis are pending.

Contributing: Michael Sneed

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