Economic & Cultural Affairs Officer
City of Pawtucket
PAWTUCKET, RI — David Barber, an award-winning broadcast veteran with extensive experience in talk radio programming, radio and TV sales management, television programming and commercial production and with ad agency and public relations expertise, died on July 4, 2015. He was 60.
On a trip to Flint Michigan to attend a friend’s wedding, Mr. Barber died, Saturday, July 4, from a stroke and heart attack he had on Thursday, June 25, says his brother Larry Barber. The family is planning to hold a memorial service in Rhode Island and will announce the specifics shortly, he says.
He grew up in Flint, Michigan, graduated from Mount Morris High School and received his bachelor’s degree in business from Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.
A Watchdog for the Public
The Flint Michigan native, a seasoned award-winning radio broadcaster on WTRX-AM (1130), WTAC (600), and WFDF (910) radio stations in the Flint market, became the watchdog for his listeners in his hometown and the surrounding area, using his microphone to protect the public interest. Known as an outspoken, controversial and opinionated talk show host, Mr. Barber’s listeners regularly tuned into to hear him taking on some of the biggest political heavyweights and corrupt elected officials in Michigan.
In 2006, recognizing the need to move up in his radio career, Mr. Barber took a professional risk relocating to the Providence, Rhode Island radio market, and taking the helm of WPRO’s daily late morning show (9:00 am to 12:00 noon), the time slot formerly held by Steve Kass. After a year, even after getting an excellent rating on his first job performance review, Mr. Barber was suddenly let go when John DePetro — a former WHJJ radio host — left his job in Boston and was brought back top Providence by the station. After his time with WPRO, he brought his liberal, blue collar views to New York-based Air America Radio Network.
Mr. Barber made TALKERS magazine’s Heavy Hundred list of the nation’s most important radio talk show hosts, getting this prestigious designation three times. His show was selected along with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Don Imus, Dr. Laura Schlessinger and others.
Bringing the General Assembly to the People
Ultimately, when hired by the Rhode Island General Assembly’s Capitol Television in 2008, Mr. Barber traded in his WPRO radio mic for a hand-held mic on a state cable channel.
As Capitol Television host — as the only on-air person — Mr. Barber interviewed the state’s elected and government officials and even its cultural icons. With experience gleaned from being a talk show host in the Flint market on WEYI-TV, he easily brought the mysteries of political sausage making (that is the political process) to the tens of thousands of viewers who tuned into “Straight from the Gavel,” a half-hour, sit-down segment with state legislators. He was never happier being in a job surrounded by politics 24/7.
According to Capitol TV, considered Rhode Island’s C-Span, it is estimated that Mr. Barber hosted 390 episodes of “Straight from the Gavel,” and about 600 “Capitol Spotlight” programs, five minute stand-up segments with members of the state’s General Assembly.
As a Trustee of Slater Mill, Mr. Barber, considered by many to be a marketing wiz with his skills honed at Davison, Michigan-based Parr Media Advertising, brought the nuts and bolts of media and public affairs to America’s most historic mill. Mr. Barber also served on the board of directors of the Salvation Army in Pawtucket and did charitable work for the Boys and Girls Club of Pawtucket. Before relocating to the Ocean State from Michigan, he served on the board of directors of the American Lung Association and hosted television telethon’s for the Easter Seals Society, the American Diabetes Association, United Way and Big Brothers and Sister, among a few.
An entertainer at heart, Mr. Barber, an avid Frank Sinatra fan, would take any opportunity to sing the songs of Sinatra, one of the nation’s best selling musical artist of all time. On many occasions, he sang at Millonzi’s Bar and Grille in West Warwick, and other local lounges, even taking the opportunity to sing with the legendary Cowsills, in Pawtucket’s Slater Memorial Park during the Pawtucket Arts Festival.
Work hard, play hard might have even been Mr. Barber’s mantra. After a long work week, on weekends you might just see him, very tanned and immaculately dress, puttering around South County on his creamed-colored Vespa to view “the majestic Narragansett surf” at Bonnet Shores Beach Club (he was a member), even enjoying an occasional ride over the iconic Newport Bridge. Or may be you might have seen the Warwick resident leisurely reading The New York Times at his favorite East Greenwich breakfast joint, the Main Street Café.
Making a Home in Rhode Island
It was not easy for Mr. Barber to leave his family and friends to relocate to a new state where nobody knows who you are. “The move was far more difficult then I expected,” he says in a 2010 blog, posted by Rich Frost with What The Hell… “I did not know a single person and to be honest with you, I don’t know if I would have made a move if I knew what I know now,” noted Mr. Barber in his interview.
Television director Jason Golditch, who directed many of Mr. Barber’s programs at Capitol Television, noted that Capitol TV’s new host ultimately adapted well to his new state. “Over time he truly grew to love this state,” Golditch says, noting that his colleague would often say, “It doesn’t get much better than this, can you believe it.”
According to Golditch, when a film shoot took place, the Capitol Television’s only on-air person would just start talking to people and they got along so well they began swapping stories. “He would find so much joy in meeting new people and talking with them on any subject,” he says.
Adds editor Carlos Diaz, at Capitol Television, Mr.Barber was a “real friend,” to him and hundreds of others who could count on his help at any time of the day or night. “He helped who ever he could, even those he did not know,” he says.
“There were postings on Facebook from people all over the nation, from all walks of life, friends he made throughout his 60 years of living,” says Diaz, all praying for his recovery. “That was amazing.”
Herb Weiss is Economic & Cultural Affairs Officer for the City of Pawtucket, Rhode Island and a writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.