FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Jim Simon, a former president of the Mutual Broadcasting System and a veteran radio broadcaster, died Tuesday at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Medical Center after a massive stroke. He was 61.
Sometimes called the "father of talk radio" for his pioneering work with KABC-AM and KGIL-AM in Los Angeles, Simon was also the father of four broadcast correspondents. His children are Jim Avila of KNBC-TV news; Chris Simon of ABC news radio, now in Sarajevo; Jay Avila, an NBC news reporter in Phoenix; and Tom Avila, a former television news assignment editor for Fox-TV now working as an independent television producer.
Simon is also survived by his wife, Eve, of Fountain Valley.
Three of Simon's sons took their maternal grandmother's name, Avila, to avoid the appearance of conflict when they were hired by their father at various stations, according to Tom Avila of Fountain Valley.
"He helped us; he always helped us," Tom Avila said. "He gave all four of us our first jobs in the business. . . . We worked together for two years at WFAA-AM in Dallas with no one knowing we were related."
Simon was a news and talk programming writer for KABC radio in the 1970s, and a vice president of WBBM in Chicago during his career, according to his assistant, Virgett Taylor. He also worked for KCBS-AM in San Francisco and KGIL-AM in the 1980s, where he had a talk show called "Midday Magazine" for about five years, Taylor said.
"He created the 'news talk in the morning' format with Ken Minyard," Tom Avila said. "He developed this chatty news talk in the early '70s" in order to compete with all-news radio and talk radio. "He wanted to compete with them in getting the news and laughing a little bit," his son said.
A memorial service is planned Saturday at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, 17580 Los Jardines E., Fountain Valley.