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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 784

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This is the grave of Carl Kasell.

Born in 1934 in Goldsboro, North Carolina, Kasell was a young student interested in drama when he had a really good teacher in high school who encouraged him: Andy Griffith, before he went into acting full time. While Griffith wanted his talented young student to go into theatre, Kasell eventually decided that radio work was more his bag. He loved the radio. He later stated that as a child, “I sometimes would hide behind the radio and pretend I was on the air.”

Kasell went to the University of North Carolina and worked on college radio there with his classmate Charles Kuralt. While in college, Kasell was drafted into the Army. After he completed his service, he didn’t bother going back to finish the degree. Instead, he became a DJ back in Goldsboro for a few years, then moving to Virginia to continue his radio career.

Kasell rose in the world of radio and broadcasting, becoming news director at WAVA in Arlington, which was an important all-news station for the Beltway. He hired Katie Couric as an intern, starting her career. In 1975, Kassell then joined National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, which is why he is remembered today. He became the host of Morning Edition in 1979 and continued in that role until 2008. So we’ve all spent a lot of mornings with Kasell. In 1998, he was also central to the founding of the NPR show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. I actually really hate this show. To me, the news is not entertainment and the show is neither funny nor interesting. Like most of the NPR weekend shows, I find it basically unlistenable. But Kasell was the announcer and judge of the show from the beginning, though not the host. He retired from full-time work in 2009, but stayed on with the show, with his famous offer to be the voice of the answering machine for winners.

In 2010, Kasell was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame, which I think is well deserved. He was the announcer for the Kennedy Center honors broadcast on television for years. He finally left Wait Wait in 2014. That’s because he was struggling with Alzheimer’s, a horrible illness, as we all know. He did manage to publish his memoir in 2014. But he was in serious decline and died in 2018, at the age of 84.

Carl Kasell is buried in Fairfax Memorial Park, Fairfax, Virginia.

This grave visit was sponsored by LGM reader contributions. Many thanks! If you would like this series to visit other broadcasting personalities, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Charles Kuralt is in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Alan Freed is Cleveland. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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