(March 12, 1921 – March 25, 1989)
Nightingale was an American motivational speaker and author, known as
the "Dean of Personal Development." He was the voice in the early 1950s
of Sky King, the hero of a radio adventure series, and was a WGN radio
show host from 1950 to 1956. Author of the Strangest Secret, which economist
Terry Savage has called “…One of the great motivational books of all
As a Depression-era child, Earl Nightingale was hungry for knowledge.
From the time he was a young boy, he would frequent the Long Beach
Public Library in California, searching for the answer to the question,
“How can a person, starting from scratch, who has no particular advantage
in the world, reach the goals that he feels are important to him, and
by so doing, make a major contribution to others?” His desire to find
an answer, coupled with his natural curiosity about the world and its
workings spurred him to become one of the world’s foremost experts on success
and what makes people successful.
His early career began when, as a member of the Marine Corps,
he volunteered to work at a local radio station as an announcer. The
Marines also gave him a chance to travel, although he only got as far
as Hawaii when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. Earl managed
to be one of the few survivors aboard the battleship Arizona.
Earl said that he felt that he had been spared for some reason.
After the war Earl became obsessed with why everyone in his neighborhood
was poor and confused. He wondered why one person was able to create
wealth and happiness for his family, while another with a similar background
stayed ignorant and penniless. Answering these questions became Earl’s
After five more years in the service, Earl and his wife moved
first to Phoenix then Chicago to build what was to be a very fruitful
career in network radio.
As the host of his own daily commentary program on WGN, Earl
Nightingale arranged a deal that also gave him a commission on his
own advertising sales. By 1957, he was so successful, he decided to
retire at the age of 35. In the meantime, he had bought his own insurance
company and had spent many hours motivating its sales force to greater
accomplishments. When he decided to go on vacation for an extended period
of time, his sales manager begged him to put his inspirational words on
record. The result later became the recording entitled The Strangest Secret,
the first spoken word message to win a Gold Record by selling over a million
In The Strangest Secret, Earl had found an answer to the question
that had inspired him as a youth and, in turn, found a way to leave
a lasting legacy for others. About this time, Earl met a successful businessman
by the name of Lloyd Conant and together they began an “electronic publishing”
company which eventually grew to become a multi-million dollar giant
in the self-improvement field. They also developed a syndicated, 5-minute
daily radio program, Our Changing World, which became the longest-running,
most widely syndicated show in radio.
When Earl Nightingale died on March 28, 1989, Paul Harvey broke
the news to the country on his radio program with the words, “The sonorous
voice of the nightingale was stilled.” In the words of his good friend
and commercial announcer, Steve King, “Earl Nightingale never let a day
go by that he didn’t learn something new and, in turn, pass it on to others.
It was his consuming passion.”