James Duffy, former president of ABC Television, dies at 95

FLORIDA – James E. Duffy, who was president of ABC Television Network for 15 years in the 1970s and early 1980s, has died at his home in Florida. He was 95 years old.

Those who knew Mr. Duffy remember him as a witty man, a proud Irishman, who at the first sound of a keyboard would sing “Lucille” and almost any song in years. 40, 50 and 60. His interests spanned generations and he valued people from all walks of life. In business, he was a broadcast legend.

Its impact on television still resonates today. His innovations over a 46-year career have ushered in new concepts in children’s programming, public service projects, different forms of audience measurement and new procedures in sales and affiliate relations.

With his vast experience in the industry, Mr. Duffy has developed a unique perspective on the extraordinary power and influence, as well as the enormous responsibility of the media. He has made a conscious effort to ensure that the network fulfills its important social responsibilities.

Mr. Duffy joined ABC as a copywriter in 1949 in Chicago, IL. In 1960 Leonard Goldenson, the president of ABC, brought him to New York as national sales manager for the Radio Network. Two years later, he was appointed Executive Vice President of Radio Network. He was promoted to Network Television in 1963, where he was vice president in charge of sales for seven years.

In 1970, Mr. Duffy became president of ABC Television Network for an unprecedented 15 years. During his tenure he helped establish ABC-TV as number one in program ratings and national sales and increased the number and quality of affiliate stations.

To celebrate his 30th anniversary with ABC, the ABC Affiliate Association presented Mr. Duffy with a crystal statue bearing the inscription: “He is the statesman among us all. He always felt and did the right thing – now, not tomorrow. the path of progress. He speaks and lives by the words: “Here is a path that we can walk together”.

A self-proclaimed farm boy from Illinois, Duffy graduated from Oak Park River Forest High School (IL) in 1944. After graduation, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a air cadet and served as a sergeant with the 925th Guard Squadron.

He received a Bachelor of Arts from Beloit College (WI) in 1949 and received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Duffy burst into broadcasting as an announcer at Station WBNB while attending Beloit College. He joined ABC as a publicity writer in 1949 in Chicago, IL.

Following his tenure as Network President, Duffy served as President of the Communications Office of Capital Cities / ABC, Inc. In this capacity, he initiated several special projects, including Project Literacy US (PLUS), where he served as National Director Spokesperson with Barbara Bush. Mr. Duffy spoke to a representative sample of audiences in the
United States on education and literacy issues and the influential role of broadcasting in public service.

In 1989, Mr. Duffy received the broadcasting industry’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters. Her lifelong contributions to the broadcasting industry were also recognized in April 2004 with the Broadcasting Foundation’s Pioneer Award.

In 1996, he received the National Literacy Coalition’s highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award, at a ceremony in the nation’s capital. The recipient of numerous other awards for his work in literacy and education, Mr. Duffy received the President Reagan Volunteer Award in 1987; the American Legion Distinguished Service Award; the Gabriel Prize for Individual Achievement; The private sector initiative award from the Ministry of Health and Social Services; The President’s Award from the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education; the SER Jobs for Progress presidential award, among others, in subsequent years.

He was a co-founder of Youth, INC, which serves youth organizations in the greater New York City area and served on the advisory board of MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership.

Duffy has also served on the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees of the Library of American Broadcasting Foundation and on the Executive Committee of the prestigious Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He has also served on the Board of Directors of President Reagan’s Private Sector Initiative and on President George HW Bush’s Education Policy Advisory Committee.

During his years in Sarasota, Mr. Duffy was a member of the Broadcasters Club of Florida, the Media Roundtable of Sarasota and the Literacy Council of Sarasota.

In January 2002, Mr. Duffy published his book “Wind in the Trees”, a candid, poignant and often humorous story of his personal life and his many years in broadcasting. He has also written a children’s book about his three loving and animated Jack Russell Terriers, “The Adventures of Emmy, Endy and Alfie Duffy, Too!”
He was passionate about sports and loved music, poetry, history and the wonders of nature.

Mr. Duffy is survived by his daughter, Corinne Frances Duffy of Virginia; his former wife, Ellie Trueman; his love and longtime partner, Julie Baker; his beloved dog, Alfie and his many friends.

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