Jack Popejoy dies at 63; L.A. morning news anchor on KNX, KFWB

Jack Popejoy, a morning news anchor on KNX and KFWB who was a distinguished earthquake reporter for more than 25 years on Southern California radio, has died. He was 63.

Popejoy, who last worked on the air less than two weeks ago, died Saturday of cancer at his Sherman Oaks home, KNX announced.

"Jack had a tremendous ability to take very complex things and make them easy to understand," said Andy Ludlum, director of news programming for KNX-AM (1070) and KFWB-AM (980).

"He also had a marvelous ability to make you feel calm," Ludlum said, "and could assure people that no matter how grim things look at the time, they will be OK."

On Sept. 11, 2001, Popejoy and KFWB on-air partner Judy Ford "were brilliant," Ludlum said.

Since 2009, Popejoy had been a KNX morning news anchor. He held the same position at sister station KFWB from 2000 to 2009.

An astronomy major at Amherst College, Popejoy joined KFWB in 1986 and a year later was making "learned" historical comparisons while reporting on the Whittier Narrows earthquake, The Times said in 1987.

Four days before the magnitude 5.9 temblor struck in 1987, KFWB had finished airing Popejoy's series on earthquake preparedness.

He was a creator of the annual Great California ShakeOut which was billed as the state's largest disaster drill when it made its debut in 2008. He was also dedicated to overall disaster preparedness and often taught workshops on the subject.

Popejoy did the voice-over for the ShakeOut's earthquake soundtrack and told the Wall Street Journal in 2008: "We want to make it feel cool to duck, cover and hold."

His passion for scientific reporting reached back to high school, when he wrote science spots for a radio show in the Northeast, Ludlum said.

Born in 1947 in Austin, Texas, Popejoy spent his early years in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

After earning a bachelor's degree in 1969, he launched his radio career in Boston and Philadelphia and came to Los Angeles in the early 1970s to write jingles for commercials.

Hired as a weekend DJ in 1972 for KIIS-AM (1150), he eventually became the station's program director.

Four years later, he joined KPOL-AM (1540) and -FM (93.9) as a newscaster. As KPOL-FM's program director, he changed its call letters to KZLA, Ludlum said.

From 1980 to 1982, Popejoy worked in TV news in San Francisco. He returned to Los Angeles in 1983 and joined KCOP Channel 13 as a reporter.

Last month, he received his 27th Golden Mike award.

When KFWB needed a website in the 1990s, Popejoy taught himself to write HTML and put one together, Ludlum said.

An avid world traveler, Popejoy was proud that he had visited all seven continents, Ludlum said. In December, Popejoy made his final trip, to Nepal and Morocco, soon after his father died.

Popejoy has no immediate survivors.

A public memorial is being planned.