Dallas Radio Icon Ron Chapman Dies at 85

Broadcaster spent more than four decades on the air in North Texas including 31 at KVIL-FM

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Longtime North Texas disc jockey Ron Chapman, who spent more than four decades on the air in Dallas-Fort Worth, died Monday. Chapman was 85 years old.

Chapman famously began his radio career on the day he graduated high school, hitting the airwaves in 1953 for WHAV in Haverhill, Massachusetts, where he grew up. Chapman spent two years on Armed Forces radio in Korea before working in Connecticut.

In 1959 he moved to Texas and thus began his illustrious career in DFW.

Chapman was first heard in in North Texas on KLIF as the on-air persona "Irving Harrigan." It was at KLIF where he teamed up with Charlie Brown (Jack Woods) on the Charlie and Harrigan Show playing records and performing voices in skits.

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Juan Garcia/The Dallas Morning News
Ron Chapman speaks with KVIL producer Sandi Hopkins as she shows him a news clip that may be of use to him while on the air. Photo was taken on April 24, 1986.

From 1965-1968, Chapman hosted the locally produced “Sump’N Else” teen television dance show similar in format to Dick Clark's American Bandstand.

A year later, Chapman moved to KVIL where he would lead the morning drive with an "adult contemporary" format. Chapman's morning show would become a behemoth, dominating the ratings for decades.

In a 1987 clip of his show posted on the Radio Hall of Fame, to which he was inducted in 2012, Chapman can be heard talking about the sale of his radio station to Infinity Broadcasting and said that it sold for more than $82 million. Chapman joked the station was worth more than the Dallas Cowboys at the time.

Jerry Jones, who bought the team two years later, is reported to have paid more than $140 million for the team.

Chapman was known for his positive humor and outrageous on-air stunts. One of the well-remembered stunts included broadcasting live while skydiving, a story reported on by NBC 5 in November 1981.

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NBC 5 News
Legendary DFW broadcaster Ron Chapman prepares to broadcast live while skydiving in November 1981.

Other stunts included "covering a camel race in the Sahara, mounting a treasure hunt with clues on hidden tape recorders that resulted in Braniff Airways tickets to Hawaii," according to a biographical sketch on Chapman in the special collections library at Texas Tech University.

In another, with no explanation, he asked his listeners to send in $20. Days later the station had received more than $244,000 in cash that was donated to a local charity.

"The Voice of KVIL," the biographical sketch said, was described by The Dallas Morning News as “one of the most respected and feared in the country”. In 1989 D Magazine hailed him as “a warm and fuzzy tyrant”. The Billboard in 1985 described his team simply as “dominant.”

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The Dallas Morning News
Radio personality Ron Chapman, laughs at a comment made by a caller, as he hosted his final show for KLUV on Friday, June 24, 2005 at their studio in Highland Park.

Chapman retired from KVIL on Sept. 1, 2000 and moved to KLUV -- an "oldies station" where he stayed until retiring again in 2005. That wasn't the last time he hit the airwaves, though, in 2007 he again stepped behind the microphone as a fill-in host for fellow broadcasting legend Paul Harvey on his twice-daily program "The Rest of the Story."

Chapman was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Radio Hall of Fame in 2012. He is also a member of the Texas Radio Hall of Fame.

North Texas radio DJ, Hawkeye of KSCS said about Ron Chapman, "He was trending before people trended. He was far ahead of his time."

North Texas radio DJ, Hawkeye, New Country 96.3, KSCS, shares his thoughts about legendary Ron Chapman and his importance in the industry.

According to a statement shared by the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, Chapman's family "asks for time to process this loss, and thanks you for your kindness, understanding and prayers. There will be no service, but a public gathering of friends and colleagues is being planned."

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William Snyder, The Dallas Morning News
Ron Chapman is considered to be the chief architect of KVIL's rise to the top. He is also being blamed for it's recent slide in the area ratings race. Photo taken on April 5 1992.
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