Hank Booth, the ‘Voice of Lawrence,’ has died

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Legendary Lawrence broadcaster Hank Booth died Friday at age 77, following a sudden and unexpected illness.

His wife, Sue Booth, posted publicly to Facebook asking people to please “keep our family in your thoughts and prayers as we mourn an incredible father, grandfather, friend, advocate, and life changing man.” 

Booth’s unmistakable voice could be heard over Lawrence radio for decades. He was inducted into the Kansas Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1990, and the Lawrence Lions Alumni Association’s Hall of Honor in 1999, among numerous other honors and recognitions. 

Tributes to Booth poured out across social media Friday. 

Brian Hanni, the voice of the Jayhawks, wrote that no one taught him better than Booth what it meant to be entrenched in a community and to give of one’s time and talents selflessly to countless causes that needed his voice. 

“His emcee skills were only surpassed by the size of his heart,” Hanni wrote. “Love you, Hank Booth. You will be sorely missed but your impact on Lawrence will be forever cherished.”

Lawrence school board member Carole Cadue-Blackwood wrote that Booth was “an incredible human being, and by all accounts a wonderful person to boot. His voice has been woven into our community for decades.”

Booth hosted a show called “According to the Record” on KLWN for about 60 years, though he took some occasional breaks, according to Lawrence Business Magazine. But he touched untold numbers of lives both on and off the air.

Booth was a founding board member of the Lawrence Schools Foundation and served the organization for more than 30 years until leaving the board at the end of 2016, according to the district’s website.

Lawrence Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Lewis wrote Friday that “Hank was a giant of a man who was outstanding at his craft and in his field. There was no greater supporter of public education than this man.” 

Booth was also a longtime Cottonwood Foundation board member, and supported many other Lawrence nonprofits. 

“We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Hank Booth,” Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center posted. “Like so many local organizations, we were grateful and fortunate to count Hank as a supporter and a friend.”

Longtime local nonprofit leader Elizabeth Keever, of Heartland Community Health Center and formerly of Just Food, wrote that she’ll miss the early morning tests asking her to hop on the radio to share an update with the community.

“There is nothing like starting your day with Hank,” Keever wrote. “He was always my biggest cheerleader and I could never be more grateful for all he has done for me and our community.”

A Lawrence High School alum who graduated with the class of 1964, Booth broadcast the LHS football games for more than 50 years. 

Lawrence Times reporter and recent LHS graduate Jack Ritter wrote that this past season, he had the privilege of doing a segment with Booth during his last game.

“Matt Llewellyn invited me into the press box because they wanted to ask me about LHS fans and how they got to the playoff road game in Derby, Kansas,” Ritter wrote. 

“As we talked, I gave some of my input on the game and LHS’ season-to-date, and Hank, who took a backseat during the segment, spoke up. ‘Well, Matt, we might have a new play-by-play guy for the football team,’ joked Hank, who planned for the 2022 fall season to be his last.”

After the segment ended, Booth shook Ritter’s hand and wished him luck in his future endeavors.

“Looking into Hank’s life and seeing stories from people on Facebook and Twitter today helped me realize that this interaction was special for me, but just daily life for Hank,” Ritter wrote.

Lawrence local Kim Murphree knew Booth her entire life. When she was 9, her father died, and Booth made a deliberate effort to mentor and watch over her. 

“He loved this community. He was the greatest cheerleader that this community has ever had,” she said. 

Inspired by Booth, Murphree went on to devote 15 years of her life to radio. 

“There are hundreds of stories, thousands of people that he helped, thousands of charities that he hosted their events or he served on the boards, then thousands of people like me, who were lucky enough to partake of his goodness. That’s the mark of an extraordinary life,” she said.

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