FARGO – Ed Schultz, the longtime broadcaster who churned up the Fargo-Moorhead area airwaves before moving into the national spotlight as a progressive firebrand, died of natural causes Thursday, July 5, at his home in Washington, D.C.
Schultz, the host of “The News With Ed Schultz” on RT America, was 64.
"We at RT America are sad to announce the passing of Edward Andrew Schultz. Ed Schultz passed quietly early morning on July 5 at his home in Washington, D.C. This announcement comes as a shock to all of us here at RT America," the network said in a statement.
Schultz never shied away from controversy. If anything, he sought it out.
He was a man of contrasts. A political chameleon with a driving ambition.
The former standout college quarterback at Minnesota State University Moorhead hit his stride as a conservative talk show host in the Fargo-Moorhead market, then shed his skin to become a Democrat. He later jumped to the national stage with MSNBC before becoming a lead anchor for Moscow-sponsored RT America.
Former co-workers said he demanded excellence.
Dana Mogck, a WDAY-TV anchor and producer, said Schultz, who became the station’s sports director in 1983, gave him his big break.
“He wanted to set the world on fire. He really changed sports coverage in this market. He had a passion for it. He outworked everybody. He was a real go-getter,” Mogck said.
“I learned a lot from Ed. A lot of what to do, and some of what not to do,” Mogck said. “There weren’t many dull days in the office when Ed was in charge.”
But Mogck also fondly remembers playing a quiet nine holes of golf with Schultz in 2006, the same year Schultz’s son, David, won the North Dakota Open golf title.
“When you could get Ed alone, he didn’t have to put on an act, he didn’t have to put on a show. We had the nicest conversation. That was the nicest time to talk to Ed, when he was all alone.”
Mogck was surprised Schultz had gone quietly.
“He even joked, ‘If you can’t be accurate, be loud’” on talk radio, Mogck said.
Schultz said he knew how to get people involved. “And he did. Television, radio – he knew how to move the needle,” Mogck said.
Schultz was born Jan. 27, 1954, in Norfolk, Va., to George and Mary Schultz.
He started his college football career at Division I Memphis (Tenn.) State University, transferring to the University of Richmond (Va.), but felt he wouldn’t get the chance to start as quarterback, said Larry Scott, who was MSUM’s sports information director for four decades.
Scott said a former MSUM alum pointed Schultz north. And even without a scholarship, Schultz came – launching Dragon football into the upper echelons of Division II for years.
Schultz started as quarterback in 1976. But it was his senior year, 1977, when the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder “was really remarkable,” Scott said.
He earned All-Conference, All-District and NAIA All-America honors and was named an NCAA Division II honorable mention All-American, leading the division in passing.
Schultz got an extended tryout in 1978 with the Oakland Raiders as a free agent, but was cut. He also tried out with the New York Jets.
He then took a position as a broadcaster in the KXJB-TV sports department in Fargo.
In April 1979, at age 24, Schultz signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, but he left the Bombers after two exhibition games.
He married Maureen Zimmerman, and they moved to Houston, where she worked as a reporter and news anchor at an ABC affiliate, and he was a sports director for KSSR radio.
About a year later, they moved back to Fargo, where they did reporting and anchor work at KTHI (now KVLY).
In 1983, the couple moved to WDAY-TV, where she co-anchored the news and Schultz took over the sports department.
Schultz had a raucous style as a sports broadcaster.
In September 1988, Schultz was calling a football game between North Dakota State University and Northern Michigan at Dacotah Field, when a whiskey bottle shattered the glass of the press booth. Schultz uttered some profanities on the air and dashed out of the booth and into the stands to find and confront the bottle thrower.
Dave Kolpack, a former Forum sports reporter and columnist, now working for The Associated Press, used to compete with Schultz.
The competition “was intense,” Kolpack told WDAY-TV. “Ed kind of raised the bar for a lot of things,” by combining journalism with entertainment and opinion.
Despite the sparring, they respected each other. Kolpack remembers seeing Schultz at a ballgame, and Schultz joking, “Just spell my name right, that’s all I ask.”
In the early 1990s, Schultz began working as a host of the WDAY-AM radio program “Viewpoint,” while also continuing his sportscasting duties. It was also the same year that Zimmerman filed for a divorce.
Schultz dominated the morning airwaves as a staunch conservative in the 1990s.
Stacey Anderson, the operations manager for WDAY-TV, worked with Schultz until he moved to KFGO radio in 1996 to become the host of that station’s “News and Views” program.
“I just remember (Schultz) being a hard worker, a hard driver,” Anderson said. “He was such a good celebrity. He was probably the closest thing to a celebrity that Fargo ever had. He always said if people are not talking about you, you’re not doing something right.”
Anderson helped Schultz with “The Great Outdoors” fishing show, traveling to Alaska or Canada’s Northwest Territories.
“The farther away from Fargo, the more he’d let his guard down,” Anderson said. “When we’d get closer to home, you’d see the guards go back up again.”
Schultz met Wendy Noack and married her in 1998. She had been working as a psychiatric nurse and running a homeless shelter, and insisted Schultz meet her at a soup kitchen for their first date. He credits her with changing his world view. He registered as a Democrat in 2000.
In 2004, Schultz took his radio show nationwide. Then in 2009, he moved to national television, becoming a prime-time progressive voice on MSNBC through 2015, when his show was dropped.
He started his job at RT America, formerly called Russia Today, in early 2016, hosting the half-hour show “The News With Ed Schultz.”
Schultz, who was critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin while at MSNBC, said when he took the RT job that he didn’t anticipate any problems. “Nobody is going to tell Ed Schultz what to say,” he said in an interview.
Schultz enjoyed hunting, fishing and flying with his family. He is survived by his wife, Wendy, a son and five stepchildren.