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The Sound of Greatness

Categories: Volunteerism

Authoritative. Familiar. Ubiquitous. Friendly. Resonant. These are just some of the many words that were used to describe RFB&D's remarkable volunteer Art Gilmore, a major voice in American television and radio, who passed away at the age of 98 on September 25, 2010. From 1973 through 2005, Art Gilmore volunteered reading textbooks for the Southern California unit of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic and served as a board member from 1980 to 1984.  
Like so many of our volunteers, Art was “a star without a name or a face." In fact, he was cast as a never-seen radio announcer in several episodes of “The Waltons” . . . and in the 1942 movie, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” Art was the voice of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
 
One of the many tributes left after Art’s passing put it this way: “I never heard of you before, but I just realized that I have listened to your voice most of my life. Thank you, Sir, for entertaining us. And thank you for your service to our country.” During World War II, Art served as a fighter-director U.S. Navy officer aboard an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean.
 
Another tribute, from RFB&D board member, longtime volunteer, and DreamBuilder Winnie Reitnouer: “He was my favorite to work with, so warm and sincere and always a twinkling eye . . . his many years as a volunteer reader and board member are treasured memories. He was as admired in his personal life as he was within his profession. Friendly, modest, humorous, a consummate gentleman, he was a delight to know.”
 
Among Art’s many claims to fame, he was the narrator of countless movie trailers. His wife estimated he did 3,000 of them.
 
Not unlike the introduction to today’s TV show, “Law and Order,” it was Art’s classic voice that intoned the opening of "Highway Patrol" from 1955 to 1959:
 
"Whenever the laws of any state are broken, a duly authorized organization swings into action. It may be called the state police, state troopers, militia, the rangers, or the highway patrol. These are the stories of the men whose training, skill and courage have enforced and preserved our state laws."
 
Fittingly, on October 4, an annual "10-4 Day" parade of classic police vehicles in Hollywood was dedicated to Art.
 
In the trailer for Frank Capra’s life-affirming small-town tale from 1946, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Art’s voice assures us that “Never before has any film contained such a full measure of the joy of living.” Much the same could be said of Art’s own life.
 
Starting out as a radio announcer, he moved to television in the 1950s as the announcer for "The George Gobel Show," and then "The Red Skelton Show" for 16 years. He also occasionally worked as an actor on "Dragnet," "Adam-12" and other shows, and was the founding president of Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters.
 
In 1964, on behalf of the Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, he introduced a political advertisement consisting of an address by Ronald Reagan, a speech called “A Time for Choosing,” that is often cited as a factor in establishing Reagan’s influence in conservative politics.
 
He also narrated children's records, taught announcing at the University of Southern California, and co-authored a textbook, "Television and Radio Announcing." He was married to his high school sweetheart, Grace, for 72 years – and they dated for eight years before that.
 
Art’s family has suggested that, in lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to RFB&D’s Southern California unit 5022 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90027.
 
   – Andy O'Hearn
 

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