Ed Bradley

  • Born: June 22, 1941
  • Died: November 9, 2006
  • Location: New York, New York

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Ed Bradley covering the 1980 Republican National Convention

Pioneering newsman Ed Bradley dead at 65

New York (AP) — Ed Bradley’s lifelong love of jazz helps explain what set him apart.

With his signature beard and earring, he more resembled the image of a musician than an award-winning journalist and 26-year veteran of 60 Minutes. But Bradley, who died Thursday of leukemia at 65, straddled many worlds during his career at CBS News.

He covered Vietnam and the White House. He profiled singer Lena Horne and scored the only TV interview with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. He collected the latest of his 19 Emmys for a segment on the reopening of the 50-year-old racial murder case of Emmett Till.

He defied expectations and stereotypes, and, as a black man who penetrated an overwhelmingly white profession, broke racial barriers along the way.

Bradley “was tough in an interview, he was insistent on getting an interview,” said former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, “and at the same time when the interview was over, when the subject had taken a pretty heavy lashing by him — they left as friends. He was that kind of guy.”

“He could do it all,” said Mike Wallace, Bradley’s longtime 60 Minutes colleague. “When he was doing the story of the Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s, I’ll never forget the picture of Ed picking up a man who was about to drown, and helping him avoid drowning by bringing him back to safety.”

Though he had been ill in recent months (and underwent heart bypass surgery in 2003), he remained active on 60 Minutes. In a segment airing last month, he scored the first interview with the Duke lacrosse players accused of rape.

Wallace said Bradley was “private” about his illness. “The first time I really understood that he was ill, on the air, was a couple of weeks ago. He was narrating a story, and his rich voice wasn’t there anymore. It was just thinner.”

Bradley’s years on 60 Minutes took him a long way from his start in broadcasting: as a schoolteacher moonlighting on a radio station in his native Philadelphia as a jazz DJ.

But he was always mindful of where he had come from, said journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, a longtime friend.

“He was a star that never forgot his roots,” she said. “He could do stories of every kind, and do it excellently. He never hesitated to do stories about his own people.”

And, in recent years, he took on a side gig that recalled his professional beginnings: radio host for Jazz at Lincoln Center, for which he won one of his four Peabody awards.

Wynton Marsalis, artistic director of Lincoln Center’s jazz department, called Bradley “one of our definitive cultural figures, a man of unsurpassed curiosity, intelligence, dignity and heart.”

Born June 22, 1941, Bradley grew up in a tough section of Philadelphia, where he once recalled that his parents worked 20-hour days at two jobs apiece. “I was told, ‘You can be anything you want, kid,’” he once told an interviewer. “When you hear that often enough, you believe it.”

After graduating from the historically black Cheyney State College (now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania), he launched his radio career as jazz DJ and news reporter in 1963. He moved to New York’s WCBS radio four years later.

Then, in 1971, he moved to Paris and hung out, enjoying the art scene until his money ran out, whereupon he joined CBS News as a stringer in its Paris bureau. A year later, he transferred to the Saigon bureau during the Vietnam War, and was wounded while on assignment in Cambodia. He was named a CBS News correspondent in early 1973 and moved to the Washington bureau in June 1974. He later returned to Vietnam, covering the fall of that country and Cambodia.

After Southeast Asia, Bradley returned to the United States and covered Jimmy Carter’s successful campaign for the White House. He followed Carter to Washington, in 1976 becoming CBS’ first black White House correspondent — a prestigious position that Bradley didn’t enjoy.

Seeking a longer form of storytelling, he jumped from Washington to doing pieces for CBS Reports, traveling to Cambodia, China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. It was his Emmy-winning 1979 piece on Vietnamese boat refugees that eventually landed his work on 60 Minutes.

He joined 60 Minutes in 1981 when Dan Rather left to replace Cronkite as anchor of The CBS Evening News.

60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt, in his book Minute by Minute, was quick to appreciate Bradley. “He’s so good and so savvy and so lights up the tube every time he’s on it that I wonder what took us so long,” Hewitt wrote.

As an interviewer, “Ed could get people to say the damndest thing because he put them at ease,” said former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw. “It was like talking not to a reporter, but talking to an interested counselor of some kind. ... He had this wonderful way of stroking his beard and saying, ‘Well, what do you mean by that?’”

President Bush issued a statement hailing Bradley as “one of the most accomplished journalists of our time.”

Perhaps only once did his subject get the best of him: In a perfectly staged joke, Muhummad Ali pretended to doze off in mid-interview, then swatted at Bradley in his “sleep.” For one rare moment before Ali began laughing, Bradley lost his cool.

In 2003 alone, Bradley won three Emmys: for lifetime achievement, a report on brain cancer patients and a report about sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.

Accepting a lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Black Journalists two years later, he remembered being present at some of the organization’s first meetings in New York.

“I look around this room tonight and I can see how much our profession has changed and our numbers have grown,” he said. “I also see it every day as I travel the country reporting stories for 60 Minutes. All I have to do is turn on the TV and I can see the progress that has been made.”

But, he added, “There are many more rivers to cross, and many more stories to cover and, I hope, a lot left in this lifetime.”

Bradley is survived by his wife, Patricia Blanchet.

___

Associated Press Writers Jake Coyle and Verena Dobnik in New York contributed to this report.


Condolence & Memory Journal

You've hit the ball out the park! Increidlbe!

Posted by Aileen - ykFMsJiEKr, DE - jSklLEgWlH   November 16, 2011

So sad to know that we won't be able to hear that wonderful voice anymore.

Posted by Cas - Buffalo, MO   December 29, 2006

He was a great journalist that generated conversations rather than heat.

Posted by sarah testing - West Newton, MA   November 20, 2006

Please accept my condolences at this difficult time. Mr. Bradley was my hero and role model. May God Bless You All.

Posted by Mari Assante - Bradenton, FL   November 11, 2006

He was a great newsman who would always seek the truth.
Condolences to all his loved ones.

Posted by jane martin - Elizaville, NY   November 10, 2006

My love and prayers go out to all who knew and loved Mr. Bradley. I have enjoyed watching him and the 60 minute team for most of my life. I also know something of what he has gone through, as my husband has AML (acute myelogenous leukemia). So sorry he had to leave like that. It is a terrible disease that takes a strong man and turns him into an invalid even if you fight with all you have. I know he is in the arms of God! Good night Mr. Bradley.

Posted by Angela Doyle - Lexington, KY   November 10, 2006

The loss of Ed Bradley will leave a void in more lives than you may think, certainly mine included. Not only was he among the most accomplished and experienced of all journalists (both print and broadcast) in his search for the truth of a story, he also was unsurpassed in his saavy and style, his seamless grit and determination, and his obvious lust for living an original life. Ed will be literally sorely missed for a very long time.

Posted by Matthew Bosley - Lincoln, NE   November 10, 2006

My heartfelt sympathy to Mr. Bradley's family. What a sad loss. I don't remember watching 60 minutes without him and I am 59 years old. I hope he is at peace now.
Fondly,
Susan Spiegel

Posted by Susan Spiegel - Laguna Woods, CA   November 10, 2006

My condolences to Mr. Bradley's family. He was one of a kind. I too remember his interview with Lena Horne. Such an accomplished and classy guy.

Posted by Kay Robert - Bakersfield, CA   November 10, 2006

My fondest memory was the interview of Lena Horne. He will be deeply missed. To his family my prayers are with you.

Posted by Carla Poindexter - Indianapolis, IN   November 10, 2006

I'm shocked! He will be greatly missed. What a great man he was.

Posted by Diane Marr - Redmond, OR   November 09, 2006

Mr. Bradley was a rare breed, a man who didn't care what side of the fence the story came down on, as long as it was the truth! His presence will be missed greatly.

Posted by Larry Brown - Wichita, KS   November 09, 2006

Ed Bradley was a great news correspondent and he will be a missing spirit
for our family on sixty minutes.
Condolences to the family.
Barbara L. Clarke and Family

Posted by Barbara Clarke - Waianae, HI   November 09, 2006


Default Album

Ed Bradley at Hurricane Katrina benefit concert in 2005
Ed Bradley joins Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award winners
Ed Bradley at '60 Minutes' 25th anniversary celebration
Ed Bradley and Whoopi Goldberg
Ed Bradley in 1977
Ed Bradley covering the 1980 Republican National Convention

Default Album

The cast of '60 Minutes' interviews President Clinton, 1995