Ty Wansley, a Chicago radio news anchor and talk show host for more than 35 years, was being remembered Thursday as a man who was passionate about his profession and the community he served.
Wansley, 63, died Wednesday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was admitted last week for treatment of congestive heart failure and related illness, according to his brother, Larry Wansley. He previously suffered a series of small strokes.
“He really was a good guy, a caring guy who touched so many people,” his brother recalled.
Wansley most recently was news and information director for three iHeartMedia stations — urban contemporary WGCI FM 107.5, urban adult-contemporary WVAZ FM 102.7 and gospel WGRB AM 1390. He anchored morning news on V103 and WGRB and hosted two weekend public affairs shows, “Chicago Insight” on WGCI and WGRB, and “Chicago Speaks” on V103.
“Chicago lost a legend in Ty Wansley,” Matt Scarano, president of iHeartMedia Chicago, said in a statement. “Over his vast career, Ty interviewed community leaders, mayors, congressmen, governors, and presidents with ease. He most enjoyed his interaction with listeners and the community. We will all miss his passion, wit, and friendship.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement: “Ty Wansley was one of Chicago’s great radio voices. Whether he was questioning leadership or informing his listeners, Ty brought a great passion and perspective to the news. He was adored in our communities and his body of work was a credit to our city. The thoughts and prayers of the City of Chicago are with Ty’s family, friends, and many fans at this difficult time.”
Beyond his success in urban radio, Wansley caught lightning in a bottle in 1993 when he teamed with former Chicago Alderman Ed Vrdolyak at news/talk WLS AM 890. “This will be the greatest boon for race relations this city has ever seen,” Wansley said of the unlikely partnership, which scored high ratings and headlines on WLS and later on the former WJJD.
Born Thaxter Wansley, he graduated from Jefferson Community College in Hillsboro, Missouri, and began as a radio newsman in his native St. Louis. He worked as news director for Sheridan Broadcasting and Amaturo Broadcasting before moving to Chicago in 1979 to join the former WBMX (now V103) and WJPC. He later hosted “Tell Ty” on urban news/talk WVON AM 1690 and “Urban Street” on Weigel Broadcasting WCIU-Channel 26.
“Some people just do a job and others are passionate about it,” said longtime friend Sherren Leigh, former publisher of Today’s Chicago Woman. “Ty was passionate about radio.” Leigh said Wansley was especially proud of a career in which he had interviewed “everyone from politicians to business people to famous jazz musicians.”
Wansley is survived by two brothers, Larry and Danny. Plans for a memorial service in St. Louis are pending.