Cliff Kelley, the former Chicago alderman who forged a distinguished career as a news analyst and radio talk show host, is stepping down as afternoon star of urban news/talk WVON 1690-AM.
March 29 will be Kelley’s last day as the self-styled “Governor of Talk Radio” after 25 years at the Midway Broadcasting station. He broke the news to his listeners at the end of Friday’s show.
Although he stopped short of calling it a retirement, Kelley, 77, said: “I’m just rewiring. There is plenty more work for me to do.” He’ll continue at WVON as “community ambassador” and a regular fill-in host.
“I cannot imagine WVON without Cliff Kelley,” said Melody Spann Cooper, chairman of Midway Broadcasting. “We plan to keep him really busy as an ambassador for the station. We’ll never let him get too far away from us.”
A native of Chicago’s South Side and graduate of Englewood High School, Roosevelt University and John Marshall Law School, Kelley spent 16 years in the Chicago City Council. His political career was cut short in 1987 when he pleaded guilty to accepting a $36,000 bribe in Operation Incubator, a federal investigation of City Hall corruption.
After serving nine months in prison, Kelley reemerged as a political pundit and radio talk show host — starting at former urban news/talk WGCI 1390-AM (under Gannett ownership). As a fixture at WVON, he hosted mornings for 13 years before moving to afternoons in 2007.
“Cliff Kelley is one of Chicago’s most influential hosts and has been a trusted source of information for Chicago’s African-American community for over three decades, forming a host/listener bond that is rarely seen in any market,” Todd Ronczkowski, program director of WVON, said in a statement.
Kelley continues to host “American Heroes,” an independently produced radio show for veterans, airing at 4 p.m. Saturdays on WVON.
Friday’s comment of the day: Mark Mardell: I’m happy for the Reader’s fundraising success. I looked through the four pages of contributors, some of whom I know, some of whom I know of, all of whom caring about the importance of the Reader. When I worked for the Reader two decades ago in circulation, it was often over 200 pages, and a bear to deliver. The size was largely driven by section 4, the personals and want ads. That has dried up for every paper thanks to the Internet. I have been reading it weekly for decades, and strongly feel that life in Chicago would be diminished without it. Many people have come and gone, but it is still an excellent read.