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Mitchell Harding, 79; popular L.A. public-radio personality

OBITUARIES

November 26, 2007|Jocelyn Y. Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Mitchell Harding, a former Los Angeles-area public-radio personality who co-created an influential science-fiction program on KPFK-FM (90.7) known as "Hour 25," read the news on-air at KCRW-FM (89.9) and worked behind the scenes on many programs, died of natural causes Nov. 9 in Santa Monica. He was 79.

In the 1980s, Harding, in his deep bass voice, and station manager Ruth Seymour (then Ruth Hirschman) read the New York Times on the air each day at noon, Sarah Spitz, publicity director for the station, said in an e-mail to The Times.

The "Newsstand" show "was very popular; it was really one of the signature programs," said Will Lewis, management consultant for KCRW. "When people thought of KCRW in those days, they thought of Ruth and Mitch reading the New York Times. It followed 'Morning Becomes Eclectic.' "

In the 1980s, same-day editions of the New York Times were hard to find in L.A.

In addition to his on-air responsibilities, Harding was also the afternoon board operator who announced upcoming programs and did station identifications from 12:30 to 4 p.m., when "All Things Considered," a National Public Radio program, was broadcast.

For many years he was the producer of the "The Health Connection" featuring Dr. Gershon Lesser. But Harding was more than a producer to Lesser.

"He, being a very intellectually sound speaker of truth, was a great one to present materials to that were perhaps questionable," said Lesser, a longtime friend. "I loved him as an adversary, my counter-ego. He would help me to identify my own ego and my own bias in what I was presenting."

Well-read and philosophical, Harding was also "a great source of ideas, when I ran dry," Lesser said.

"His heroes were Thomas Jefferson, the Dalai Lama, Studs Terkel, Paul Robeson, Malcolm X and the ancient Greeks. He would often quote from the ancient Greeks," Lesser said.

In 2006 the two published "Healing and Spirit: Medicine, Politics, Civilization and the Making of an Extraordinary Physician."

Harding worked at KCRW from the mid-1970s until his retirement in 1994. In 1972, while working at KPFK, he, Mike Hodel and others created the science-fiction program "Hour 25," according to the show's website. Harding interviewed many prominent science-fiction writers on air.

On the show, he was known as John Henry Thong, a name that reflected his love of humor, said his son, Julian Ware.

Harding was born E. Loring Ware on July 14, 1928, in Illinois. In addition to his son, he is survived by brother Don Ware of North Carolina.

jocelyn.stewart@latimes.com

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