Robert I. Callahan, a veteran Baltimore broadcaster who worked in radio and television and was honored in early June with a star on Maryland Public Television's Walk of Fame, died of cancer Aug. 28 at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Miami. He was 76.
"I always think of Bob as someone who could do so many things," said Donna Hamilton, the WBAL-TV news co-anchor who worked with Mr. Callahan at WJZ-TV. "He was just an extremely capable and versatile person who could do just about anything and do it well, and he was a super-nice guy in the process."
Robert Irvin Callahan was born in Baltimore and raised at his grandparents' home on Upshur Road in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Annapolis.
He was a 1955 graduate of Annapolis High School, where he was captain of the football and lacrosse teams.
Mr. Callahan began his broadcasting career while a senior in high school hosting "Teen Turntables," which aired mornings on WNAV-AM in Annapolis.
Mr. Callahan told The Evening Sun in a 1985 interview that he would get up early to go to the station and from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., he'd play records and then "rush over to the high school to be in time for class."
From 1955 to 1957, he attended what is now Towson University and then began his career as a disc jockey at WJDY-AM in Salisbury in 1958.
From 1959 to 1960, he worked as a record promoter for Decca Records and was on air at WFBR-AM from 1960 to 1962.
Drafted into the Army in 1963, Mr. Callahan served as an announcer for Armed Forces Radio. He was stationed at Washington's Fort McNair, where he programmed a 30-minute national radio show about the history of national holidays.
He also was press liaison officer at the White House and Arlington National Cemetery, where he "rubbed arms with Roger Mudd, Dan Rather and all the other big guys," he explained in the 1985 interview.
After being discharged in 1965, he joined WBAL radio as the station's overnight man and later became host in 1966 of a disc-jockey show that aired from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.
One of his broadcasting feats included staying awake for 66 consecutive hours in 1966 while broadcasting live from Memorial Stadium in support of the Orioles, who went on to win the World Series that year.
In return for his publicity stunt, the Orioles presented Mr. Callahan with a uniform bearing the number 66. For a time, they retired No. 66 in recognition of Mr. Callahan's efforts.
In the late 1960s, he broke into television at WBAL when he occasionally subbed for weatherman Al Herndon.
"I liked it right away," he told The Evening Sun, adding that "once you get your foot in the door, people look at you differently."
Mr. Callahan left WBAL in 1970 and joined WVOB-AM in Bel Air, where its general manager was former WBAL colleague Jim McMahan Jr., and soon the two were on the air hosting "Bob and Jim in the Morning."
"Neither of us were the stars, but the audience was," said Mr. McMahan, who was given the moniker of "Cap'n Jim" by Mr. Callahan, because he was an Army reservist and also worked at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
"Our show that aired from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. was an open-phone show where we took calls from the audience, and that's how we made them the stars," he said. "Bob was a master interviewer, and when someone called in about a lost dog or cows in the road, he could get 10 minutes out of it. And did we have fun.
"Bob was incredible. He could see a one-liner coming from half a mile away. He was a master at humor, and in the 26 years that we did the show, we never had a script," Mr. McMahan said.
"We also never had a delay system. That means we trusted everybody. No one ever crossed the line, and it was a tribute to the callers, who treated the radio station as if it were theirs. "
Regular callers, Mr. McMahan said, included "Birdman," "Jimmy the Danish," "Dr. Dick, the Mayor of Churchville," and "Slick Gleason," his chief of police.
When Mr. McMahan purchased WAMD in Aberdeen in 1978, the two men moved the show there. Mr. Callahan continued to work on the show until he moved to Florida in the 1980s. He came back for the final week of the show in 2003.
"He was more than my partner. He was more like a brother. We worked side by side in what was a business marriage. And in all those years, we never had an argument," Mr. McMahan said.
"When we hung up 'Bob and Jim in the Morning' in 2003, Bob was living in Florida then and came back and we did the final week together," said Mr. McMahan, a Republican who is now a member of the Harford County Council.
During the 1970s, Mr. Callahan was host of Maryland Public Television's "Maryland Weekend" and "The Old Houseworks," which was MPT's version of "This Old House."
Lou Cedrone, who was The Evening Sun TV critic, wrote in 1977 about Mr. Callahan's sixth year of hosting "Maryland Weekend."
"He is pleasant and affable. He makes bad puns, but they are soon forgotten, much sooner than the show, which, at a time when the average American is looking more and more to diversion close at hand, is of undeniable service to the viewer for whom it is prepared," wrote Mr. Cedrone.
From 1981 to 1988, he did a regular feature, "Callahan's Camera," that was part of WJZ's "Evening Magazine." He hosted "Kid's Baffle," also on WJZ, which pitted local schools against each other in a game show format.
In June, MPT recognized his years of work at the station by honoring him with a star on its Walk of Fame at its Owings Mills headquarters.
Mr. Callahan was sanguine about his career when he discussed the honor with The Aegis.
"You know, the easiest job is to be the on-air talent; you just show up and do what you're told," he said.
The former Bel Air resident moved to Boca Raton, Fla., in the 1980s. He continued working as a voice-over artist and as an on-camera freelance talent. At the time of his death, he was living at a retirement community in Delray Beach, Fla.
He also was a certified scuba dive instructor and Coast Guard-certified captain. He was an avid cyclist and participated in the Senior Olympics, where he won multiple gold medals.
At Mr. Callahan's request, no services will be held.
He is survived by his wife of 45 years, the former Mary "Tanna" Coe; a daughter, Lisa Callahan Golden of Millersville; two sons, Steven A. Callahan of Bel Air and Samuel P. Callahan of Delray Beach; and four grandchildren. An earlier marriage to the former Luci Brashears ended in divorce.