COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Radio host Don Imus died Friday at 79.
Imus, who hosted "Imus In the Morning," died Friday morning in College Station, Texas, a representative said. He had been hospitalized on Christmas Eve.
He died of complications from lung disease, according to the Associated Press.
Imus, who was known for controversial comments and pranks, ran his show for nearly 50 years before it went off air in March of 2018.
Dave Rickards, one of the hosts of the long-running San Diego morning radio show "Dave, Shelly and Chainsaw," said Imus was a national radio icon.
"Not being a New Yorker, I didn't grow up listening to him, but his legacy preceded him," Rickards said. "Back in the day, Don Imus was the king of WNBC, which was the biggest radio station in the biggest market in the country, He was the top of the top of the top."
Rickards said Imus was the Hunter S. Thompson of radio. Similar to Thompson, who invented "Gonzo journalism" and wrote for Rolling Stone, Imus was known for his prodigious drinking and drug use, Rickards said. "I have a lot of respect for him, because he finally recognized his demons and gained control over them."
March 29th, 2018, will be the last 'Imus in the Morning Program.' Turn out the lights...the party's over.
— Imus (@WhereMyImusAt) January 22, 2018
Imus was the host of "Imus in the Morning," a daily radio morning show that became nationally syndicated.
Known for his controversial and provocative opinions, Imus first appeared on radio in 1968 before joining WNBC in 1971, according to Radio Insight.
Imus sparked a public outcry with a racist comment in April 2007 about the Rutgers University women's basketball team. The controversy eventually led to the cancellation of his show by CBS Radio. He later apologized.
Players on the team said they were deeply hurt by the remark and Imus was widely criticized by civil rights and other groups.
Imus retired from his radio show in March 2018. "Don continued to share his candid opinions about elected officials in both parties up until the end," his family said.
For years, he operated a ranch program for children with cancer.
He was a member of the National Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
In 2001, Time magazine included Imus in a list of the 25 most influential Americans. The article called him "the national inquisitor" known for his interviews of politicians and other figures.
"[Imus] is not Howard Stern, his rival for morning radio dominance," Time wrote. "But he was, before Howard was, in the early '70s — with the gross-out skits, the monologue rambles, even an irreverent book (God's Other Son, written in the voice of his preacher creature, Billy Sol Hargus)."
He is survived by his wife Deirdre and six children. The family will host a small, private funeral, the statement said.