Arthur Morton Godfrey (August 31, 1903 – March 16, 1983), born in New York City, New York was an American broadcaster and entertainer. While his family was originally well off, his mother was an unsuccessful performer, and his father a failed sportswriter who left the family. With the family in sudden poverty, Godfrey tried to help them keep going, then went on the road doing odd jobs and hoboing. He served in the United States Navy from 1920 to 1924 as radio operator, serving in that capacity on naval destroyers. Additional training in radio came during his service in the Coast Guard from 1927 to 1930. It was during his Coast Guard stint in Baltimore that he appeared on a local talent show and became popular enough to land his own brief weekly program.
On leaving the Coast Guard, he became a radio announcer for Baltimore station WFBR and moved the short distance to Washington, D.C. to become a staff announcer for NBC-owned station WRC that same year and remained there until 1934. He was already an avid flyer and in 1933, nearly died following a violent car crash outside Washington that left him hospitalized for months.
During that time, he decided to listen closely to the radio and realized the stiff, formal announcers could not connect with the average radio listener, as the announcers spoke as if to a crowd and not one person. Godfrey vowed that when he returned to the airwaves he would affect a relaxed, informal style as if he were talking to just one person. He also used that style to do his own commercials and became a regional star.
In addition to announcing, Godfrey sang and played the ukulele. In 1934 he became a freelance entertainer, but eventually based himself on a daily show on CBS-owned station WJSV in Washington, titled Arthur Godfrey's Sun Dial. Godfrey knew President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who listened to his Washington program, and through Roosevelt's intercession, he received a commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II. He eventually moved his base to CBS' New York City station, then known as WABC, and was heard on both WJSV and WABC for a spell. In the autumn of 1943, he also became the announcer for Fred Allen's Texaco Star Theater show on the CBS network, but a personality conflict between Godfrey and Allen led to Godfrey's early release from the show after only six weeks.
As he provided a first-hand account of Roosevelt's funeral, broadcast live over CBS in April, 1945, Godfrey broke down in tears. The entire nation was moved by his emotional outburst. This led to his joining the CBS Radio network in his own right, where he was given his own daily program, Arthur Godfrey Time, a Monday-Friday morning radio show that featured his monologues, interviews with various stars and music from his own in-house combo and regular vocalists on the show. Godfrey's monologues and discussions were all totally unscripted, and went whatever direction he chose.