Al Julius spent five years here in Philadelphia at WCAU Radio where he did his morning drive talk show (Monday through Saturdays from 5 to 10 am). When WCAU Radio decided to compete against KYW Newsradio, Al Julius was on their air as a WCAU NewsBeat anchor.
In his WCAU Bio, the station said:
"He had that gruff exterior on the air, but he was a sweetheart," Ray Tannehill, his former KDKA-TV colleague, recalled of Al Julius. "He said what he believed. And it came across on the air."
A reporter in Pittsburgh once wrote: “He ranted. He railed. He really let ‘em have it. Al Julius scorched officeholders, practitioners of political correctness and anyone or anything else that ticked him off during his tenure as a commentator on KDKA-TV.”
Al was born in Brooklyn during 1929 and always had the area’s accent and bluster. “He was a Brooklyn boy, but he had pride in Pittsburgh probably more than many of the native-born," said his wife, Kat Julius. Al spent most of his career at the other end of our state and not in Philly.
In 1947, after graduating high school, Al Julius arrived in Pittsburgh to attend Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie-Mellon University). Four years later, he was graduated from Carnegie’s drama school with his Bachelor’s degree.
He then moved to Tel Aviv, Israel where he was a member of the acting company of the Habimah Theater for six years.
Then he returned to the United States in 1955 for a radio gig at KTLN in Denver, then went to KQV radio, Pittsburgh, as the station’s News Director on December 9, 1964. Seven months later, on June 5, 1965, he started doing a two-way radio broadcast. Next, Al Julius came to Philadelphia and WCAU Radio during February of 1968. Back to Pittsburgh he went and KDKA-TV, Channel 2, Westinghouse Broadcasting. He was there from November 1973 to July of 1978 when he went to KABC-TV, Channel 7, the ABC O&O station in Los Angeles.
In September of 1981, Al Julius returned to Pittsburgh for another tour of duty with KDKA-TV as their commentator.
Al Julius is best known to the Pittsburgh community as the guy who raised money for the poor so that they could have a good Thanksgiving.
It all started in 1982 when a woman sent Julius ten dollars and asked that a needy family receive it to help them have a nicer Thanksgiving. That started the ball rolling and that year, Al and KDKA-TV raised $90,000 that was distributed in the form of supermarket vouchers. Over his tenure at the station, he raised eight million dollars to help those in need.
During January of 1991, KDKA-TV informed Al Julius that he no longer fit in with the station’s plans. He and 13 others were laid off in a cost cutting measure. Al Julius said that he would have taken a pay cut to stay but the station said “no thanks.”
"I was willing to make a lot of changes, but I'm not going to change who I am. We had a difference of philosophy about the function of a commentator. I thought my function was to give people what they don't get in the news," said Al Julius.
About his strong commentaries on KDKA-TV, Al Julius once said: “ Bill Burns (the news anchor) brought integrity to the station. I brought maybe a kind of spice and garlic and cayenne."
Al and his wife had two children, Rabbi Ethan Julius from San Jose, California and Gari Weilbacher of Merion, Pennsylvania.
In 1989, Al Julius quit smoking cigarettes, but on June 28, 2002, he passed away in a hospital in Florida from lung cancer. He was 73.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Photo originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers member Roger Hendler
Written and researched by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
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