For more than 30 years, Roy Leonard dominated the airwaves on Saturday mornings with ratings on WGN that were higher than the next four stations combined. His weekday shows were also top rated as he interviewed celebrities, authors, politicians, musicians and sports figures, who made a stop at the WGN studios a must. Starting in 1985 he became host of WGN-TV’s “Family Classics” after the sudden passing of Frazier Thomas. He hosted many WGN-TV Specials and was film and theater critic on the nightly news.
Roy’s career started in New England. After attending Emerson College and a stint in The United States Air Force and Armed Forces Radio, he found a job and his life’s companion in the small town of Framingham, just outside of Boston. While working at the local radio station, he was approached by the casting director of the local theatre group to appear in their next show. Not only did Roy appear in that and future shows, but he married the casting director, Sheila Marie Finn in the Fall of 1953. The Leonards began to raise a family and Roy got his first job in a major market, Boston. It was here that he honed his skills in news reporting and developed interviewing techniques on both Channels 5 & 7 and daily radio shows on WHDH, WNAC, and the Yankee Network.
In 1967 WGN, Chicago, came calling and the Leonard family, which by then included Sheila and six sons, moved to the Midwest where Roy soon became a top radio and TV personality. His love of theater prompted an annual London Theatre Tour, where listeners were offered a week of sightseeing, theatre and shopping. This led to New York Theatre weekends, trips to the Shaw & Stratford Festivals in Ontario, excursions to France, Norway, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Thailand and The Soviet Union, where Roy broadcast his morning radio show from Moscow.
Leonard retired from daily broadcast duties at the end of 1998 but continued “Family Classics” and occasional radio and TV commercials. His sons all live in and around Chicago and eight grandchildren see their grandparents regularly. In the Fall of 2010, Sheila suffered a severe fall and slowly developed Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia. She went into Hospice Care at the Mather Life Center in Evanston early in 2012 and passed away on March 13th. Roy lives in The Mather, an upscale Continuing Care Retirement Community and keeps his website up to date by sharing with long time fans as well as new readers, his thoughts on current world and local happenings. And in a special series called ‘Till Death Do Us Part, he details his struggle with an ailing spouse and offers suggestions that might help those in a similar situation.
More than forty years ago, Burt Reynolds made his first live appearances on the stage and on the Roy Leonard Show in Chicago. Here are some very entertaining memories. (March 15 & 29, 1972) Click here to return to the … […]
WGN Radio Walk of Famer Roy Leonard joins Nick to talk about Sting’s musical, “The Last Ship”, and more. George Karzas of the Gale Street Inn, Steve O’ Brien of Leadbelly Burgers and Michael Thornton of the Gift Theatre … […]
The Tony Award-winning singer and actress in theatre, film and TV visited Roy several times, including this conversation from September 8, 1989. She was also an ambassador to the U.N. and prolific writer. Click here to return to the Roy … […]
In honor of WGN Radio’s 90th anniversary, we’re creating a Walk of Fame. One of the radio legends we’ll celebrate is Roy Leonard. He joins the morning show to dish about his career. Find out why Anthony Michael Hall had … […]