Longtime 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney, who delivered 1,097 wry on-air essays over 33 years on the show, has died today. CBS News said in a statement that Rooney died after complications following minor surgery. He was 92.
"It's a sad day at 60 Minutes and for everybody here at CBS News," said Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and the executive producer of 60 Minutes. "It's hard to imagine not having Andy around. He loved his life and he lived it on his own terms. We will miss him very much."
Rooney was born on Jan. 14, 1919, in Albany. Shortly after World War II, Rooney began his more than 60 year career in television at CBS—he spent the first 30 behind the camera as writer and producer for entertainment and news programing. Then in 1978, he came to prominence when he began appearing on air at the end of 60 Minutes with “A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney.” The NY Times described his particular brand of humor and wit, which led to him lovingly being referred to as the our nation's greatest curmudgeon:
With his jowls, bushy eyebrows, deeply circled eyes and advancing years, he seemed every inch the homespun philosopher as he addressed mostly mundane subjects with varying degrees of irritation, vexation and sometimes even pleasure.
Time magazine once called him “the most felicitous nonfiction writer in television.” Rooney always said he was uncomfortable with his on-air role; he preferred to be known as a writer and was the author of best-selling books and a national newspaper column. Rooney also faced more than a few brushes with controversy from his more-famous TV job: he was criticized in the media (and suspended by CBS at times) in response to complaints over the years that he made offensive remarks about black people, gay people, women, Hispanics, and even Kurt Cobain. But he noted, "I am proud to say that no CBS executive has ever stopped me from saying anything, no matter how dumb it was."
Below, you can check out his very first CBS essay from July 2, 1978, in a segment called "Three Minutes or so with Andy Rooney"—in which he contended that since "fewer people are watching television over the Fourth [of July], I suppose fewer die of boredom." And also check out his final essay from October 2nd this year, in which he notes, "I've done a lot of complaining here, but of all the things I've complained about, I can't complain about my life."
Update: Gov. Andrew Cuomo released this statement about the death of Rooney:
Today we mourn the passing of a great journalist and American icon. A lifetime New Yorker, born in Albany, Andy Rooney was known for his strong opinions, wit, and love of life. Never one to hold back his feelings, his weekly segment on 60 Minutes was watched across the world by viewers who admired his honesty and straightforwardness. He was a true New Yorker, outspoken, fearless, and with a big heart, and he will be missed. We send our condolences to his family and friends