Conservative radio personality and icon Rush Limbaugh passed away from Stage IV lung cancer at the age of 70 on Feb. 17, 2021. Rush announced that he was diagnosed with the cancer in February 2020. Rush was married to Kathryn Adams Limbaugh for ten years.
Rush grew up in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He worked his first radio job at the age of 16 at a radio station called KGMO in his hometown, sparking a passion and love for something he would do his whole life.
Rush dropped out of Southeast Missouri State University in his second semester to pursue a career in radio full-time. He jumped from station to station, trying to establish himself as a radio DJ. Taft Broadcasting even told Rush that he would never become a successful on air radio host.
After a brief stint working as the director of promotions for the Kansas City Royals, Limbaugh dove back into radio and had his first big break in Sacramento, CA. Limbaugh tripled the program’s ratings and bigger stations took notice.
In 1988, Limbaugh was offered the opportunity of a lifetime. He started a show at WABC in New York and has never looked back.
Rush built a national platform with over 20 million listeners weekly in the 1990s. People often call Rush a trailblazer and a trendsetter, and that is definitely true. He unapologetically stormed onto the scene with a loud, tell-it-how-it-is style that resonated with conservatives across America. Limbaugh gave a voice to those who felt like they were forgotten. He said the things that so many Americans felt, but did not believe they could say out loud.
His booming, brazen voice blaring out of radios across the country galvanted Republicans in a way no one had ever seen before. So many conservatives developed a distinctly personal relationship with Rush. For three hours each day, millions of Americans would tune in to hear Rush lambast and excoriate liberalism for three hours.
Rush’s sense of humor was a staple of his show. He would often describe himself as an “entertainer.” Whether it was using music to introduce certain segments or nicknaming his political enemies, Rush knew what his audience wanted and knew how to deliver it. His skill and devotion has been rewarded by being inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame and the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
Part of Rush’s legacy is helping Americans realize that the mainstream media was not objective as they claimed they were. He started the movement (which President Trump picked up) to show the American people that the media was in fact biased and had ulterior motives. This style helped pave the way for other right-wing news outlets such as Fox News (1996) and Newsmax (1998).
Rush’s influence over American politics was so significant that when Newt Gingrich and Republicans took control over the House of Representatives in 1994, they appointed him as an honorary member of the incoming class of 1995. They credited Rush with helping them get out the vote and incentivizing Republicans to come out and have their voices heard.
Over his career, Rush wrote seven books which skyrocketed to the top of best seller lists. His monthly Limbaugh Letter was mailed out to close to half a million of his fans. He even started his own line of neckties called No Boundaries (perfectly on brand).
More recently, Rush Limbaugh was one of the first members of the media to support former President Donald Trump back when he was bidding for the presidency.
In his 2020 State of the Union speech, Trump surprised Rush by awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.
Ultimately, Rush Limbaugh was the voice of the common man. People loved him because he cared. He wasn’t just a talking head. He stood up for the conservative values that so many Americans hold dear and fought for them.
The world is worse for wear without Rush. He was a once-in-a-generation talent. But more importantly, he was a once-in-a-generation person. A person that inspired countless Americans with his messaging, his humor, and his love.
Rush signed off for the year of 2020 thanking his audience for everything. He expressed gratitude for the love and support he’s received over the years. I think I speak for everyone in saying that all I wanted to do was reach out and say, “No, thank you, Rush.”
Regardless of what’s in store for our country down the road, one thing will remain true forever: Rush Limbaugh is an American hero.
Rest in peace.