Maury Magill

Maury Magill, the former WWL broadcaster whose 44-year radio career included serving as the New Orleans Saints’ color commentator during game broadcasts in their inaugural season, died Friday. He was 89.

Magill began his career at WWL Radio in 1961 and became one of the most versatile voices in New Orleans radio. In addition to broadcasting Saints games, he hosted nightly sports-talk shows on WWL and served as sports director, staff announcer, news anchor and disc jockey.

Magill was part of the WWL broadcast team that covered the Saints in their early years, including their first game Sept. 17, 1967, in Tulane Stadium.

Pandemonium broke out just moments into the game as Saints rookie John Gilliam ran back the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. Magill told The Houma Courier for a 2007 story that he quickly began to worry whether the building he was working in was going to hold up.

“Tulane Stadium was steel,” he said. “The stairs and everything were steel. The people just went insane. The people just started pounding their feet. I thought the place was going to fall apart.”

Diane Newman, the longtime WWL operations and program director, called Magill a pioneer in sports-talk radio broadcasting in the city, even when his comments on air may not have pleased some.

“Maury was one of America’s first boldly honest sports talk hosts. He opened the door for iconic radio talent like Hap Glaudi, Buddy Diliberto and Bobby Hebert,” she said.

Magill retired from regular radio broadcasts in the late 1990s but continued to fill in as a part-time announcer on WWL until 2005, retiring after Hurricane Katrina. Although he was well into his 70s at the time, his dedication and dependability amazed colleagues half his age.

“Even in a reduced role, and later as a senior member of our staff, he cared deeply about WWL,” Newman said. “Maury was forever young, a tireless worker and the ultimate team player.”

In 2000, Magill was inducted to the New Orleans Broadcasting Hall of Fame by the Greater New Orleans Broadcasters Association. The Press Club of New Orleans honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998.

Magill is survived by his wife of 54 years, Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Magill; two sons, Keith and Jeff; two daughters, Michele and Karen; and a brother, Dave. Funeral arrangements are pending.