NPR has lost one of its unique and most iconic voices. Wade Goodwyn, a longtime national journalist, died of cancer on Thursday. He is 63 years old.
For more than 25 years, Wade has covered his home state of Texas and the American Southwest, covering the Oklahoma City bombing, school shootings, hurricanes, gunman murder trial American elite and the Boy Scouts sexual abuse scandal. Wait for the headlines.
“For generations of public radio listeners, myself included, he was one of the iconic voices of NPR,” NPR CEO John Lansing said in an email to employees. “Beyond that instantly recognizable voice, Wade is an extremely gifted storyteller and excellent journalist. From the first sentence of one of his stories, you know you’re being watched by us. Take a journey with the masters of their craft. Whatever the subject, it’s a real treat.
Wade’s soothing bass brings the listener closer to the radio. A profile once described her voice as “hot melted butter on roasted sweet corn”. But Goodwin thinks it’s her job that really matters. He is right. Although her voice is moving, her way of listening allows her to listen with words. Take, for example, this memorable line from his 2005 coverage of Hurricane Rita:
“In Louisiana, even if you’re a big-chested National Guardsman, when the big hit comes, you hug your NASCAR teddy bear.”
“You know Wade is a poet,” NPR editor Steve Drummond said. “It’s the little detail, the little color or the little sound he sees on the pitch that makes what he says sparkle.”
Radio storytelling launched Wade Goodwyn into journalism. He studied history at the University of Texas, a natural subject for the son of eminent historian Lawrence Goodwin, who was active in the civil rights movement and wrote books on grassroots populism in America.
After college, Wade left Austin to work as a political organizer in New York. There he became hooked on NPR member station WNYC. He told Current in 2016 that he was so captivated by the voices and stories he heard that he decided to freelance for public radio in his home state of Texas, where rent is cheaper.
He began writing freelance for NPR and was hired in 1993 to cover a high-profile story about the federal government and cult leader David Koresh in Texas. Waco’s Dead End.
“On February 28, as a cold dawn settled over rural central Texas, BATFA agents rushed to attack David Koresh and his followers at the Branch Davidian compound,” Goo DeWine reports in The Morning Edition. “A few hundred yards away, heavily armed cult members were waiting for them.”