John O’Rourke March 23, 1934 – October 18, 2018
John O’Rourke was born in Litchfield, Minnesota on March 23, 1934. He graduated from St. Thomas College in 1953 and in 1954, he answered the call from the United States Army needing men to enlist for the war in Korea. He was placed on duty with the Armed Forces Radio Division because of his interest in broadcasting. While on duty with them he was asked to broadcast a play by play of a basketball tournament being help in Japan. That experience confirmed his interest in a career in Radio Broadcasting. When he received his honorable discharge in 1955, he returned home to St. Paul determined to locate permanently where he could follow his dream. He found a position in Austin, Minnesota with KAUS Radio, which held his interest.
In the 1960’s his career in broadcasting flourished as his voice became known in more and more venues. In 1972, Austin Area Vocational-Technical Institute asked him to create a Radio and Television Broadcasting Program, and for 23 years, he shared his passion for broadcasting with others as a teacher and mentor. While teaching he developed programs such as “Sports with O’Rourke” and was known as Austin’s favorite Emcee. He was the voice everyone heard, year after year, on the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. He also emceed all of the Miss Minnesota contests coming out of Austin. In 2015, John was inducted to the Minnesota Broadcasters Hall of Fame for his sheer personality, style, and distinguished career in the world of broadcasting.
After serving as a member of the Austin city council for eight years, John decided to run for mayor. From 1987 to 1996 John served as Mayor of Austin and developed a popular radio show called “Meet the Mayor”, answering questions, on air directly from the citizens of Austin.
Other honors include the following:
- In 2007, John was inducted in the Hall of Fame for Athletes and Coaches at Austin High School for his unlimited On-Air support for all athletics.
- John earned a place on the Wall of Honor at the Cedars in Austin, in 2017. This honor was specifically for his military service. He spend 2 years in Korea with the Armed Forces Radio Network.
As a broadcast journalist, John O’Rourke was the “voice” of Mower County and became known as Austin’s Favorite emcee for civic events, pageants, and sporting contests.
With Patrick Reusse at the MN Broadcasting Hall of Fame when John was inducted.
John was a disc jockey in the Korean War.
MD telethon with Beth Bednar.
Do you know someone that has made an impact on the City of Austin? Submit a Pillars of the City nomination for next year!