NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Don Imus, the longtime cowboy hat-wearing radio personality, has died at the age of 79.
Imus was the host of Imus in the Morning for nearly 50 years — with the program getting its start in the late 1960s.
CBS News confirmed the controversial host’s passing Friday evening.
Don Imus, a legendary radio personality who sparked a series of controversies over his five decades on the air in New York, has died at age 79, @CBSNewsRadio has learned.
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) December 27, 2019
Imus’ exact cause of death has not been revealed at this time.
A family representative says he died Friday morning in College Station, Texas after being hospitalized on Christmas Eve.
The 79-year-old was one of the original shock jocks of radio. Imus retired in March of 2018, after giving one last interview to CBS that month.
March 29th, 2018, will be the last 'Imus in the Morning Program.' Turn out the lights…the party's over.
— Imus (@WhereMyImusAt) January 22, 2018
Imus was a fixture on New York radio during the 1970s and 1980s, eventually staying on at the fledgling all-sports station WFAN — which retained Imus’ non-sports show as its morning anchor.
Imus survived drug and alcohol woes, a raunchy appearance before President Clinton, and several firings during his long career behind the microphone. His career took another turn in the 2000’s when he was vilified and eventually fired for using a racial slur towards the Rutgers women’s college basketball team.
Imus’ unsparing on-air persona was tempered by his off-air philanthropy, raising more than $40 million for groups including the CJ Foundation for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. He ran a New Mexico ranch for dying children, and often used his radio show to “solicit” guests for donations.
Fellow radio personalities — including longtime New York sports radio host and WFAN colleague Mike Francesa — offered their thoughts on Imus’ passing Friday.
Shocking news on the passing of my friend, Don Imus. He will long be remembered as one of the true giants in the history of radio. My thoughts and prayers to Deirdre and Wyatt. God speed.
— Mike Francesa (@MikeFrancesa) December 27, 2019
A pediatric medical center bearing Imus’ name was opened at the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.
Imus’ wife of, Deirdre, and his son Wyatt were at his side, according to a family statement Friday morning. He is also survived by another son and four daughters.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)