When the news of Tim Byrd’s death came across the transom late last week, I had two reactions: first, I felt profound sadness for the loss of someone I’d known for nearly two decades; and second, I heard his voice in my head—a deep, velvety “Madame Editor!” followed by a resonant laugh.
Tim’s booming radio voice—his most famous attribute—is etched on my consciousness, and I imagine that’s true for many others in Palm Beach County, including those who didn’t know him personally like I did. To hear Tim talk was to be immediately engaged. His voice pulled you in, wrapped you in cashmere. You remembered everything he said.
But “the Byrdman,” as his listeners knew him, had other qualities that weren’t as public. For one thing, he was a loyal friend who would always show up and fill the room with his bigger-than-life personality. He had been to every Palm Beach Illustrated anniversary party since 1997, and his absence will be felt when we celebrate 70 years this March. Though his relationship with the magazine predates me, I know from colleagues that Tim was there for almost every PBI milestone and signature event going back at least 25 years. He was part of the family.
The story that echoes around these halls dates back to the early aughts. Palm Beach Illustrated had sponsored the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man & Woman of the Year finale, and Tim was a guest at our table. At the table next to ours sat a beautiful woman named Sally. We introduced Tim and Sally that night, and things took off pretty quickly from there. What a privilege to have that shared history.
My fondest personal memory dates to 2012, when Tim interviewed me on stage at The Gardens Mall. My debut novel had just been released and I was a nervous wreck talking about my work in front of a few dozen spectators (and every shopper who happened to pass by). Tim, with his easy style and that dulcet voice, put me immediately at ease and made me feel like a celebrity.
That was his gift: bringing out the best in people and making them feel like he cared—because he did care. Tim was a consummate radio man, the best in the business. But he was also a genuine gentleman who gave more than was asked of him and wanted nothing in return. There isn’t a nonprofit organization that asked Tim for support and didn’t get it. He was a champion for the vulnerable and the unsung, and he was glad to share his time and talent for the benefit of others. A hero in every sense of the word.
I think I speak for everyone here at Palm Beach Illustrated when I say Tim left a legacy of love and positivity that remains despite his untimely departure. Goodbye, old friend.