Legendary WMAL General Manager, DC Media Executive Andy Ockershausen Dead at 92

John Matthews

WASHINGTON — (WMAL)  Andy Ockershausen, a longtime media executive and proud lifelong Washingtonian known for his deep ties within D.C.’s business and civic communities, died on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2021. He was 92.

Known universally among friends and associates as “Andy O.”, Ockershausen built WMAL Radio into a revenue and ratings giant that dominated Washington’s airwaves for more than a quarter-century, and opened doors for him to become a familiar and welcome presence at Board of Trade meetings, charity fundraisers, sporting events and cocktail parties for the rest of his life.

Whether he was looking to close a deal on an ad buy, to wrangle donations for a charity auction, or to line up a celebrity speaker for a community event, Ockershausen was renowned for his networking abilities, decades before networking became a thing.

“He knew everybody. And he talked to everybody,” said Redskins legend Sonny Jurgensen, one of Ockershausen’s closest friends. “If you went to Café Milano, or wherever you went, he knew everybody in there.”


“Everybody knows who he is, because if he doesn’t know you, he will introduce himself to you, and very shortly, you’ll know what he’s about,” former WMAL personality Andy Parks once recalled. “You can’t help but like him. Even if he comes off as brash, you can’t help but smile when he’s in the room.”

If nothing else, being a “character” made him memorable. Magazine publisher Bill Regardie recalls inviting Ockershausen to sit with him as a guest in the private box of Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke. “So we sat down, and about halfway through the first quarter, Jack looks down the row after the Redskins had scored a touchdown, and Andy is sitting on my lap. Jack looks down and says ‘Oh Willie! What am I going to do?’ And with that, Andy plants a kiss on my cheek. I did not get invited to the next game.”

Andrew Martin Ockershausen was born in Washington, DC in 1929, and grew up in Northeast D.C., where he attended Eastern High School and played quarterback on the school’s football team. His first stint at WMAL was as a “gofer” in 1949. After serving a stint in the Air Force as a TV producer, Andy returned home and sold Pontiacs before returning to WMAL to sell TV spots in 1953.

Ockershausen rose through sales and became WMAL’s general manager in 1960, coinciding with the promotion of Frank Harden and Jackson Weaver as the station’s morning hosts.

Harden and Weaver’s program – which would anchor WMAL’s lineup for 33 years – featured little more than live-read commercials, time-checks, Weaver’s character voices telling corny jokes and Harden’s dry-humored straight man responses – along with a hymn at 6:55 and a morning march at 7:25 each morning. At the height of their popularity, one of every four morning radio listeners was tuned to WMAL.

What made all of that work was a formula developed by Ockershausen, who saw community involvement as the key to success. He had Harden and Weaver make appearances several days a week for the next three decades – at every Kiwanis club luncheon, car dealership opening and charity fundraiser they could find. Harden and Weaver’s three-decade relationship with Children’s Hospital raised more than $7 million.

“We were all encouraged to get out in the public to be seen and heard,” recalled longtime midday host Tom Gauger. “We all had regular gigs – mine was emceeing concerts. I hosted the Air Force Concert Band performances almost every week for several years, and then there was a long string of Christmas shows at the Kennedy Center. Radio stations just don’t do that anymore. We were a big part of the Washington community.”

WMAL’s stable of stars who signed on through the 60’s to complement Harden and Weaver, including Gauger, Bill Trumbull, Felix Grant and Bill Mayhugh, followed the same pattern, with individual ties to community groups and charitable causes, including the Leukemia Society, the Salvation Army and the D.C. Police Boys and Girls Club.

Ockershausen also led by personal example, involving himself in many charities over several decades, including Neediest Kids, Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society and Fight for Children.

That commitment to service prompted Roll Call to credit Ockershausen directly in a 1983 editorial, calling WMAL “a station that’s not only the eyes and ears of Washington, but its voice and heart as well.”

It wasn’t enough just to live and work in Greater Washington. Ockershausen demanded that his employees get to know their city. “He hired buses and made everyone take a guided tour through the entire city and metropolitan area. Mandatory attendance,” said Robin Sproul, a onetime WMAL News intern who recently retired as a top ABC News executive. “He wanted each person who worked for him to see who our audience was and where they lived – another unforgettable experience with Andy O.”

Ockershausen took his role as a civic leader seriously, as an active member – and one-time President – of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. Publisher Bill Regardie maintains that before the District had an elected Mayor and Home Rule, “Andy was part of a small cadre of downtown kingpins who literally ran the city and told the DC Board of Commissioners what to do.”

It has often been said that in a city as racially, politically and socially divided as Washington, DC, the one entity that had the ability to bring people together has been the then-Washington Redskins – especially in the first Joe Gibbs era. Once again, WMAL was instrumental in bringing those diverse groups together in the form of its Hall of Fame broadcast team of Sonny Jurgensen, Sam Huff and Frank Herzog – a trio hand-picked by Ockershausen. Sonny, Sam and Frank proved so popular that listeners routinely turned down the TV sound and listened to the game on WMAL.

After the radio station changed ownership in 1987, Ockershausen left WMAL, and spent time supporting an unsuccessful bid to land a major league baseball team for D.C., before joining WFTY, Channel 50, as General Manager. He later enjoyed a long run at Home Team Sports, a local Cable TV outlet which evolved into Comcast Sportsnet (now NBC Sports Washington).
At HTS/Comcast, Ockershausen worked in sales development – mentoring young account executives and creating access for them.

“He would set up meetings,” says Eric Shuster, who started as a rookie salesman under Andy at Home Team Sports. “I would cold call these people, and they’d never call me back, and then Andy would say, ‘Well, who’d you call?’, and I’d say, ‘Well, I called Jerry’s Ford,’ and Andy would say, ‘Well, I’ll call Jerry myself’, and the next thing you know, we’re sitting in Jerry’s office, with Andy asking him, “Why didn’t you call Eric back?’”

Working in sports television, Ockershausen had the chance to feed his lifelong passion for sports, getting to know professional athletes and developing deep friendships with many of them. Many former D.C. football players in particular, including Marcus Washington, Mike Sellers, Jason Campbell and Shawn Springs, called Andy O. – a man 50-plus years their senior – their friend.

“Andy was the same to a receptionist as he was to a doctor as he was to the president of a company as he was to the quarterback of the Redskins,” says Shuster, who is now Director of Strategic Partnerships at NBC Sports Washington. “Andy was the one guy who treated them exactly the same as everyone else. These guys were not looking for someone who would kiss their butts nonstop. They were looking for somebody who they could trust – somebody with credibility who treated them like everybody else, and that’s Andy.”

Ockershausen spent the last 20 years of his active career in television, but his heart never left WMAL.

“He was like a father with a child at ‘MAL,” recalled Catherine Meloy, CEO of Goodwill of Greater Washington. “He really had a passion for WMAL.”

There is no doubt that paternal urge is what prompted Ockershausen to call into the WMAL newsroom on the morning of September 11, 2001. Ockershausen had just finished playing tennis at a club across the street from the Pentagon, when he saw American Airlines Flight 77 slam into the building. Ockershausen spent the next several hours describing the scene, quite possibly as the first eyewitness reporter in the nation at the scene of the disaster. In large part because of his contributions, WMAL was honored with the National Edward R. Murrow award for its coverage.

Ockershausen’s successful career was not all that tied his heart strings to WMAL. The love of his life was also there. Janice Iacona, who joined WMAL in 1977 as a college intern, later became Harden and Weaver’s producer, and eventually crossed over from programming into sales, where she became WMAL’s top account executive.

“He said from the very beginning that if he was ever going to get married again, he was going to marry me,” Janice once recalled. “That was it. Once I got into sales, it closed the deal.” The two were married in 1993.

Janice later left WMAL to form her own media firm, Best Bark Communications, and in 2016, her company provided Andy O. a platform to share his eight-plus decades of memories. Together, the two produced “Our Town”, a series of more than 200 podcast interviews by Andy of newsmakers, community leaders and Washingtonians who shared his love of his hometown.

“It’s been a great, great time to be in the glory years in broadcasting in Washington,” Andy O. once said. “I get up every day, and I did for all of those years and say ‘Thank God I’m in this business.’ I love this city, I love this town, I love what I do.”

Andy is survived by his sons Kurt and Christian, along with two grandchildren.

Copyright 2021 by WMAL.  All Rights Reserved (PHOTO:  Best Bark Communications/Mary Pat Collins)

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