Ed Bradley, 1941-2006

Ed Bradley of '60 Minutes' Dies at 65

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 10, 2006

Ed Bradley, 65, a suave and streetwise reporter considered one of the best interviewers on television and the winner of 19 Emmy awards for his work on "60 Minutes" and "CBS Reports," died of leukemia Nov. 9 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He lived in New York.

Bradley, the first African American at CBS to be a White House correspondent and a Sunday night anchor, covered a broad array of stories with insight and aplomb during his 39-year career, from war to politics to sensitive portraits of artists. He won virtually every broadcast news award -- some of them more than once.

"He was an icon not only to black journalists, but to journalists at large," said Bryan Monroe, vice president and editorial director of Jet and Ebony magazines and president of the National Association of Black Journalists, which gave Bradley its lifetime achievement award last year. "While there may have been a script, he was open to improvisation, spontaneity and going where the story took you. He stayed authentic to who he was."

Bradley's ability to handle hard-nosed investigations and to draw out guarded celebrities made him a star. He covered the Vietnam War, a presidential campaign and the White House and at times anchored the evening news. Last month, he said he was still having fun, even with a heavy workload of 23 pieces a year.

Bradley was a jazz-loving native of Philadelphia who rose from unpaid radio work to the most senior position on the most popular news program on TV. Tall and well-built, with close-cropped gray hair and beard, he had the tailored, seasoned look of a foreign correspondent but was always stylish, signified by the earring he sometimes wore.

"Ed Bradley was the coolest guy I have ever known," said Bob Schieffer, CBS's chief Washington correspondent and a close friend. "He knew everybody, from Jimmy Carter to Jimmy Buffett, Muhammad Ali and Tiger Woods. . . . People just loved him. Ed always had a kid with him, a godson or someone's child. God knows how much money he gave away to charity. He was the softest touch in town."

He "was 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" to put him on "60 Minutes," producer Don Hewitt wrote in his book "Minute by Minute" (1985).

One of his last stories, which aired on "60 Minutes" on Oct. 15, investigated the Duke University rape case, scooping everyone with exclusive interviews with the accused lacrosse players and raising doubts about the prosecution's case. The Duke story "had everything that in many ways defines this country -- elements of race, sex and privilege," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer's Gail Shister last month.

Some of his other notable stories included an insightful interview with golfer Woods, the only interview with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, a documentary on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and coverage of the Columbine High School shootings. He reported the reopening of the Mississippi murder case of 14-year-old Emmett Till, which reignited the civil rights movement in 1955.

As an interviewer, Bradley had the air of an interested and close listener. Although colleagues such as Mike Wallace and Dan Rather would pounce on a subject, Bradley would wait, letting his patience and silence draw out both nervous and experienced subjects. His questions were rarely accusatory but always pointed.

"[Richard] Clark has alleged that the Bush administration underestimated the threat from al Qaeda, didn't act as if terrorism was an imminent and urgent problem. Was it?" he asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

His range of work was such that he once said, "If I arrive at the pearly gates and St. Peter said what have I done to deserve entry, I'd ask, 'Did you see my Lena Horne story?' "

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