WASHINGTON -- NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith issued a statement this morning upon learning of the death of legendary broadcast pioneer and former WGN Chicago President Ward Quaal. Quaal died late Friday in a Chicago nursing home at the age of 91.
"Free and local broadcasting was built by a handful of visionary giants, but few stood taller than Ward Quaal. During his long and storied career, Ward Quaal built WGN into an institution whose impact extended far beyond Chicago, and he counted as friends even those who occupied the Oval Office. NAB extends our sympathy to the Quaal family and we mourn the passing of this broadcast pioneer."
Quaal began his career on WGN Chicago as an announcer in 1941 and was one of those who broadcast the first bulletins on the attack on Pearl Harbor. After a stint in the Navy during World War II, he rejoined WGN in 1945.
Quaal spent time in the 1950s as vice president and assistant general manager for Crosley Broadcasting in Cincinnati, and returned to WGN in 1956 as VP/GM. He moved up to president of then-WGN owner and Tribune precursor WGN Continental in 1961. Quaal was close friends with President Ronald Reagan.
The Broadcasters Foundation in 2008 renamed its annual Pioneer Award the Ward L. Quaal Broadcast Pioneer Award. The organization at that time credited Quaal with developing WGN Radio and WGN TV to "iconoclastic status in the broadcasting industry."
Quaal served on the original FCC advisory panel on advanced television systems. In 1973, he received the NAB's Distinguished Service Award, which celebrates individual broadcasters for their "significant and lasting contribution to the American system of broadcasting."
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