This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
There is some irony in the passing of Jim Kirkwood, one of Salt Lake City's best-known and most-enduring radio talk show hosts, just two days before the end of a hotly disputed presidential campaign.
"Jim came into radio when it was friendlier," said a longtime colleague, state Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City. "We were very different in our beliefs, but we could have a discussion without getting angry. We could tease each other and laugh and have a good time, even when we disagreed."
A conservative, Kirkwood trumpeted those views with great passion, said former Rep. Merrill Cook, who also worked with Kirkwood as a K-TALK radio host.
"He studied issues very thoroughly and while he has strong opinions, he could back them up with facts," Cook said. "I appreciated him for many things, and he always was a great supporter of mine during my campaigns."
Kirkwood, who spent more than 40 years in radio, died Nov. 6, just shy of his 75th birthday.
Those who knew him universally agreed that he was always a gentleman and treated his guests with respect. He also loved fun.
"One of the funnest protests I've ever been involved in was when we interrupted the groundbreaking ceremony for light rail on 13th South," said conservative activist and part-time K-TALK commentator Janalee Tobias. "Jim was in the middle of it with me, and we really frustrated [city and Utah Transit Authority officials] with our chants while they were trying to have their press conference."
Tobias said Kirkwood coined the phrase "don't train on our parade" during the demonstrations.
Her neighbor, an elderly disabled veteran, loved listening to K-TALK and especially Kirkwood, Tobias said. "When [that neighbor] died," she said, "he had arranged to be buried with his radio tuned to K-TALK."
Kirkwood got Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka involved in radio 25 years ago, talking her into co-hosting a program with him one day a week.
Kirkwood eventually left K-TALK because he was busy with other business ventures, primarily as a tax preparer. Then, a few years later, Ruzicka persuaded Kirkwood to come back to K-TALK, where he hosted his show until his death.
"His show was never harsh," Ruzicka said. "He had strong beliefs, but it wasn't angry. He was a very kind man."
A eulogy on K-TALK's website said Kirkwood "loved the people in his audience."
"They were not just voices to him, but personal friends who he was interested in and cared about," it said. "He had the rare ability to maintain friendships even with those he disagreed with."
That's a far cry from the less-than-civil discourse that sometimes passes for many of today's political debates.
The statement said that plans are being considered to host a party in a few weeks "to celebrate his life and share memories, for friends, family, radio listeners and anyone else whose life, in one way or another, Jim has touched."