Bohannon was voted one of "The 100 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts in America" for three consecutive years by Talkers magazine, and in 2013 was chosen as the recipient of Talkers Lifetime Achievement Award. Jim Bohannon was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2003. He has also been nominated for the National Association of Broadcasters Marconi Award for Network Syndicated Personality of the Year.
Jim Bohannon was born in Corvallis, Oregon, but moved with his parents to Lebanon, Missouri while still an infant. Raised in Lebanon, his broadcasting career also began there as he got a job at hometown KLWT-AM in 1960, working for a dollar per hour. Following his graduation from Lebanon High School in 1962, Bohannon attended Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield. While in college he continued to work in radio part-time at KWTO-AM as a news reporter, and at KICK-AM as a disc jockey. One event in 1964 helped set the tone for Bohannon's later career and ability to think on his feet. Presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater made a campaign appearance in Springfield, which KWTO was covering by live remote broadcast. However the Senator was running late, forcing the young Bohannon to ad lib on air for over an hour to fill the time. As he told Inside Radio in a 2003 interview: "I called on everything I had in reserve. I was ad libbing and making comments about the campaign. It was like being dumped in the middle of the English Channel and told you needed to learn how to swim. That sticks out as a time I was given a big test." Another highlight for Bohannon while working in radio in those early years was taking three busloads of fans from Springfield to Kansas City, Missouri to see The Beatles in concert.
After his graduation from Southwest Missouri State in 1966, Bohannon enlisted in the United States Army, serving until 1970. Assigned to the Army Security Agency (ASA), his four years of service included a tour of duty (April, 1967 to April, 1968) during the Vietnam War with the 199th Infantry Brigade. During the Tet Offensive in early 1968, Bohannon was at Long Binh serving with the 303rd ASA Battalion as part of the II Field Force headquarters. After completion of his Vietnam tour Bohannon was assigned to the Washington D.C. area until discharged in 1970.
After his discharge from the U.S. Army, Bohannon remained in Washington D.C. where he worked in a series of radio jobs throughout the 1970s. They included stints at news stations WTOP and WRC as well as easy listening station WGAY. In 1980, he returned closer to his Midwestern roots as he took a job at WCFL, Chicago. While doing morning drive at WCFL he also landed a second job in the afternoons as a Chicago bureau reporter for the young upstart CNN. Through the Mutual Broadcasting System's ownership of WCFL, Bohannon secured a role as the primary guest host on The Larry King Show and also hosted his own Saturday evening call-in show. In 1993, Westwood One, which had purchased Mutual in 1985, moved Larry King to an afternoon time slot and offered Bohannon his own show in King's late evening time slot.
The Jim Bohannon Show made its debut on January 29, 1993 and met with immediate ratings success. Broadcasting from Washington, D.C., WFED (as successor to the now defunct Washington Post Radio) is his flagship station, with over 350 affiliates nationwide. Bohannon's political views, as stated on air, lean toward being moderate and/or slightly conservative, something he calls being a "militant moderate". According to Bohannon
"Our political system gives the extremes too much of a say-so. We’re very often given the choice between an off-the-wall, right wing whacko or some left-wing idiot. The result is that the sensible center - where things actually get done in this country – winds up having to choose from the ‘evil of two lessers.’”
Bohannon has stated that he is a registered Democrat for the purposes of voting in primary elections. The show airs Monday through Friday from 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM Eastern Time (02:00 to 05:00 UTC during daylight saving time, 03:00 to 06:00 UTC during standard time). Each segment of the show features guests for interviews and calls from listeners. His show usually deals with politics and popular culture. When Jim is away guest hosts have historically varied in nature and political views greatly; past substitute hosts include conservative talk host and comedian Dennis Miller, progressive talk host Leslie Marshall, and the late comedian Joan Rivers.
Jim Bohannon also hosts a daily Westwood One radio feature called The Offbeat, which airs as a part of both The Jim Bohannon Show (as its final segment) and America in The Morning (near the end of the first half-hour). On December 18, 2015, Bohannon stepped down from America in the Morning, after hosting the show for 31 years. Westwood One has appointed radio newsman John Trout to continue the one-hour show, airing weekdays at 5 a.m. Eastern Time. Bohannon's other broadcasting industry work includes occasionally serving as a booth announcer for CBS-TV's Face the Nation. He has also done voice announcements for the satellite feeds of some other Westwood One radio programs. Bohannon is the originator and driving force behind the National Freedom of Information Day. First submitted by Bohannon to the Society of Professional Journalists in 1979, the event is celebrated each March 16 to honor the birthday of President James Madison, father of the Bill of Rights.
Jim Bohannon and second wife Annabelle attended high school together but lost touch after graduation. Said Bohannon of her " I just worshipped her in high school, but she dated the football captain and I didn't make any time with her." Thirty three years later they got reacquainted at a book signing in Columbia, Missouri and were married on August 21, 1998. Jim's first wife, Camille Bohannon, is a noted broadcaster in her own right with a long career at the Associated Press and United Press International. As a teen growing up in Lebanon, Annabelle (Arnold) Bohannon was a frequent babysitter of a young Claire McCaskill (now U.S. Senator) and her sisters. As hobbies he enjoys reading science fiction, playing tennis and the trombone, something he's done since high school. He is a staunch supporter of the Jerry Hoover scholarship at Lebanon High School, serving as its honorary chairman. The scholarship is named in honor of Bohannon's former band director and is awarded to a student who will be attending Missouri State University and participating in the instrumental music program. Bohannon also does much work with the Smithsonian Associates. He remains close to his Missouri roots however, often mentioning his hometown of Lebanon, the trout fishing at nearby Bennett Spring State Park, and even once broadcasting an entire week of his shows from the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds in Springfield. The Bohannons reside in the Washington D.C. suburb of Montgomery Village, Maryland.