TUCSON — Local radio legend John C. Scott died on Friday, Sept. 22. He was 80.
Scott, whose real name was John Scott Ulm, spent more than three decades as the host of the John C. Scott Show, which bounced from AM station to AM station and sometimes stretched as long as four hours a day, five days a week. The program brought listeners into a mid-day political conversation, featuring in-depth interviews with politicians, journalists and community leaders. Over the years, guests ranged from U.S. senators to candidates for school board.
Scott’s most recent gig was an hour-long show on Saturday afternoons on KVOI 1030 AM. He broadcast his last show on July 15 and his final guest was Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik.
“John has served as a source of information in this community for decades,” Kozachik said. “He’s an icon and in the truest sense of the words, ‘He will be missed.’ This past year has been agonizing for John. First losing his wife, then his daughter. He has finally found some peace and if there’s more for us beyond this existence then John is reunited with those he lost, and in a warm embrace that will last into eternity.”
“For decades, his marvelous radio voice broadcast interviewed so many people in our community,” said former U.S. Rep. Ron Barber. “I had the good fortune to be interviewed by John and it always was a highlight of my day. John was never afraid to go after elected officials who he felt were not properly serving the people. He had strong opinions on many topics and you couldn’t listen to his shows without being challenged by the positions he took.”
“He was a personal friend, a very serious talk show host and he represented a candid voice on all things political,” said the ex-congressman. “You never had to guess where John stood on the issues. He will be sorely missed in Tucson.”
Scott got his start in radio when he was still a teenager in Kansas, after doing a stint in a juvenile reformatory for passing a bad check.
After arriving in Tucson in the late 1960s, Scott worked as a TV newscaster before leaving that job in 1972 to serve one term as a Democrat in the Arizona Legislature.
He returned to TV and radio broadcasting and in 1989, he launched the John C. Scott Show.
Scott’s son, Mark Ulm, worked with his father as the show’s producer for more than 25 years.
“He just lived his life the way he wanted,” Ulm said. “He was the Ron Burgundy of Tucson. Him and (former news anchor) George Borozan and some of those guys. Those guys ruled the roost back in the ’70s, being on television.”
He said Scott died at home and while he didn’t have a confirmed cause of death, his father had struggled with COPD.
“He smoked for 100 years,” Ulm said. “It caught up with him.”
Appearing on the show was a rite of passage for rookie politicians. Jonathan Paton, who represented Tucson in the Arizona Legislature from 2005 to 2010, called Scott the “first threshold guardian.”
“It was your first shot at being broadcast across town,” Paton said. “Before social media, before blogs, before any of that, he was the link you had to the much wider world.”
Scott would broadcast a live show from midtown’s Austin’s Ice Cream on election nights. Paton remembered stopping by in 2004 after, on his third try, he won a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives.
“It was really cool,” Paton said. “You sort of felt like you’d arrived, going on the show after an election that you’d won.”
Scott’s show steadily moved around the dial.