RIP Ed Bradley

Tributes To Trailblazer Ed Bradley


The following article appeared in the December 11, 2006 issue of Jet Magazine


Soldiering on without Ed Bradley

AP Television Writer

Faced with the need to replace Ed Bradley in the middle of the TV season, "60 Minutes" won't even bother.

His workload will be spread around, and, in a unique arrangement for the CBS newsmagazine, his top producer will run a reporting unit for stories available to all on-air correspondents.

"It's a long-term project to find the next full-time person who can show the abilities that are expected of a `60 Minutes' correspondent," said Jeff Fager, the show's executive producer.

Even before Bradley's death on Nov. 9, it was a transition year for TV's longest-running newsmagazine. Mike Wallace has retired, Morley Safer has cut back his hours and Dan Rather is gone. Katie Couric and Anderson Cooper are new contributors.

Bradley, who died at 65 of leukemia, had only a year to enjoy a status of first among equals at the ensemble. His was the first face shown during the weekly introductions, a subtle indication of status that only Wallace had previously achieved, and he was gone before many even realized it.

"He was the king," said fellow correspondent Bob Simon. "He had the most authoritative presence and style on the broadcast and that's not replaceable."

Bradley also was an off-screen leader at one of TV's most notorious dens of competition and ego.

During the 1995 crisis that became the subject of the movie "The Insider," when "60 Minutes" caved to corporate pressure and delayed a tough report about tobacco companies, "half the office wasn't talking to the other half," correspondent Lesley Stahl recalled. Bradley brought everyone to his apartment and said he wouldn't let them leave until they thrashed it out, she said.

"The reaction to Ed's dying was something I'd never seen," Stahl said. "I've been around here a long time and there was a quality of reaction from the public that was personal in a way I can't explain and everyone here has had the same thing. We have all been flooded with e-mails."

Steve Kroft inherits Bradley's slot as the first correspondent whose face is shown during the show's introduction ("I'm Steve Kroft ...").

This, after all the years in which he was rided as the "new guy."

"I think in some ways he symbolizes `60 Minutes' at its best," Fager said. "He is the best reporter in the business and you don't get better in terms of writing and reporting. His stories are always good. He doesn't do clunkers."

Kroft's stories have led the broadcast three times this season, more than any other correspondent. Over the past year, he's investigated human growth hormones, illegal immigration, Iraqi reconstruction and organized crime in a small town in Italy.

Stahl has done a number of political, science and business stories, including her October interviews with two high-profile women who lost their corporate jobs. Simon, who made his way to a remote earthquake-ravaged area in Pakistan for a story on two New Yorkers who were treating victims, is trying to do more domestic stories. Scott Pelley, meanwhile, has done more international work. Early in the season, Couric did stories but has largely concentrated on the evening news since then. Cooper, who will occasionally contribute stories to "60 Minutes" while staying at CNN, debuted last month with a story on the Abu Ghraib whistleblower.

None of the correspondents interviewed expressed any problem with doing a few more stories this year; they're often clamoring for airtime, anyway. Fager's ability to spread time around was a particularly delicate issue last season, with Wallace active and Rather joining the cast from the "CBS Evening News."

At the time he became seriously ill, Bradley had left behind no stories that his colleagues will have to pick up on.

Bradley's sense of whimsy, his cackle of a laugh, will be remembered by all who heard it. Like all "60 Minutes" correspondents, he was a generalist who would mix investigations with softer features.

"The thing you reach for at `60 Minutes' is to develop your own voice, to be as much an individual in the true sense of yourself on camera," Stahl said. "Ed was able to show a lot of parts of himself on camera and not block it off."

At "60 Minutes," correspondents hire a handful of individual producers who have a great deal of power, coming up with story ideas and doing much of the reporting. The producer's name is usually on-screen behind a correspondent during an introduction of a report.

Rather than be assigned to another correspondent, Bradley's top producer, Michael Radutzky, will lead his own team and produce stories for various correspondents, Fager said.

Bradley's death also robs "60 Minutes" of its only on-screen black correspondent. He always saw race as secondary to his reporting, but there were interviews with black personalities that CBS might have landed the story because the celebrities felt comfortable with Bradley, Fager said. Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods were among Bradley's profile subjects.

While it's important to have diversity, "I think everyone thinks it would be a mistake to address that issue with someone just for the sake of addressing that," Kroft said.


Ed Bradley, The News Pioneer Who Never Lost His Cool

By Wil Haygood
Washington Post Staff Writer

Ed Bradley had cool like a vault has money.

The celebrated "60 Minutes" newsman, who died yesterday of leukemia at 65, was certainly learned, absolutely a globe-trotter, and highly honored. But it was his cool that drew bearhugs from men and cheek-to-cheek kisses from women all over the world.

Deborah Willis, a professor of photography and imaging at New York University, came of age in Philadelphia -- Bradley's birthplace -- during the 1970s, when the newsman was routinely showing up on national news broadcasts. Women were pointing to his picture in Jet and Ebony, in Time and Newsweek. Ed Bradley came to the American party with crossover cachet.

"He had this style that everyone tried to emulate," says Willis.

Willis chatted with Bradley two months ago in Manhattan. Bradley had arrived at the New-York Historical Society to listen to her interview the artist Betye Saar. Afterward, "He complimented me on my interview! Do you know how much that meant to me?" she says.

Willis noticed how people watched Bradley at her lecture. "There was the cool pose that wasn't posing. He personified this look. It was a constructed self, constructed from a history of men who knew what it meant to be masculine and cool."

After college, Bradley taught school and did some unpaid disc jockey work. But he knew he had a voice, and the kind of diction that might lend itself to a job with a microphone. He started on the news side of CBS radio in 1967. Soon enough he was in Vietnam. It was a kind of trial assignment.

"They made no promises to him when he went to Vietnam," says Lee Thornton, who covered Jimmy Carter's White House for CBS along with Bradley, both among the first blacks to do so.

But reputations were made in the Vietnam jungle. When Bradley emerged, with a thick but well-coiffed Afro and beard, his profile began to soar.

"He had his own kind of jazz," says Thornton, who now hosts the cable talk show "A Moment With," which is taped at the University of Maryland.

"He had a swagger and class. Mind you, he was not the first generation of black males at the networks. Hal Walker preceded him [at CBS]. But he brought his generation's feeling of: 'I have a right to be here. So let me show you.' "

Thornton remembers overhearing Bradley talking to "60 Minutes" producers as he made a follow-up pitch on the telephone shortly after his initial job interview for the program. "He was not, in the beginning, wanted by '60 Minutes.' I was there the day he kept making his case to them. I listened from one of those little booths near him. His case to them was: 'I'm good, period.' "

He often turned his interviews into gabfests, into something akin to a kitchen chat at Thanksgiving. (They took on far more intensity when he was interviewing murderers or bombers.) And there were those across black America who wondered if as many black legends -- Lena Horne, Muhammad Ali -- would have been profiled were it not for his presence.

"Ed was as comfortable talking to Lena Horne as standing out on the White House lawn," says Thornton. "What he brought to '60 Minutes' was not only the diversity of his person -- his hipness, his music -- but he extended that to the stories he covered. Thereby introducing America to those things."

Thornton never saw meanness in Bradley. But a temperamental moment does stand out: "I was at CBS when an assignment editor asked Ed to do something. Ed didn't like the story idea. He didn't think it was up to his level. Ed stood up and looked at the editor and said, 'Find. Yourself. Another. Dude.' Oh, Lord, he was funny."

Bradley's pioneering presence on the air was widely noted. Last year he received a lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Black Journalists, in a ceremony here in Washington. He seemed genuinely moved at the event, staring at a screen as snatches of his memorable interviews scrolled by.

His hair had long gone gray. He had an earring. And he had raindrops in his eyes when he accepted the award from longtime BET newscaster Ed Gordon.

"Ed's demeanor said to America: 'Not everybody comes from the same cookie cutter,' " Gordon said yesterday. " 'But here we are.' "

Gordon says many black journalists are bedeviled by the prospect of being labeled "a black journalist," convincing themselves they are shortchanging their breadth and scope. Bradley never ran away from his cultural pride, Gordon says, finding poetry where it existed. "Ed knew he was smart enough to do any story, be it on the Oklahoma City bomber or Lena Horne. That's what was great about Ed."

A bevy of friends had been gathering at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York in the waning days of Bradley's life. Among them was Charlayne Hunter-Gault, a longtime friend.

Hunter-Gault, who has had her own distinguished career in journalism, used to run into Bradley all the time. He'd be on his way someplace. Lugging bags, looking bleary-eyed, off to another time zone, just back from another time zone. She didn't understand it: All those honors, well into his 60s, running like a college intern. "I'd say, 'Ed, you've got nothing to prove.' He'd say, 'I've got a job to do.' "

She walked into his hospital room the other day and he was tussling with the covers, moving his legs, his arms. "He was fighting," says Hunter-Gault. "It made me think of that Sterling Brown poem, 'Strong Men Keep A'Comin.' "

You sang Me an' muh baby gonna shine, shine

Me an' muh baby gonna shine

The strong men keep-a-comin' on

The strong men git stronger

Ed Bradley, TV Correspondent, Dies at 65

By Jacques Steinberg
The New York Times

Ed Bradley, a fixture in American living rooms on Sunday nights for a quarter century as a correspondent on “60 Minutes” and one of the first black journalists prominently featured on network television, died yesterday in Manhattan. He was 65.

Mr. Bradley died at Mount Sinai Medical Center of complications from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, said Dr. Valentin Fuster, his cardiologist and the director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Mount Sinai. Mr. Bradley, who underwent quintuple bypass heart surgery in 2003, learned he had leukemia “many years ago,” Dr. Fuster said, but it had not posed a threat to his life until recently, when he was overtaken by an infection.

Even some close colleagues, including Mike Wallace, did not know that Mr. Bradley had leukemia or that his health had precipitously deteriorated over the last few weeks. His most recent segments on “60 Minutes” were on Oct. 15 (on the rape allegations against three Duke University lacrosse players, whom he interviewed) and on Oct. 29 (an investigation of an oil refinery explosion in Texas City, Tex.). On the day that that last segment was broadcast, he was admitted to Mount Sinai and remained there until his death.

Though Mr. Bradley had largely concealed his illness, he and his wife, Patricia Blanchet, had reached out in recent days to some of his closest friends — including Charlayne Hunter-Gault of National Public Radio (who traveled to his bedside from her home in South Africa) and the singer Jimmy Buffett (who rushed to New York to be with him following a concert in Hawaii).

Mr. Buffett said he told Mr. Bradley on Wednesday that “the Knicks and the Democrats won,” eliciting a smile from Mr. Bradley, who by that point could barely speak. Mr. Buffett and Ms. Hunter-Gault were part of a close-knit circle gathered at Mr. Bradley’s hospital room at the time of his death.

“This has been a long battle which he fought silently and courageously,” Ms. Hunter-Gault said. “He didn’t want people to know that this was a part of his struggle. He didn’t want people feeling sorry for him. And for a good part of his life, he managed it.”

To generations of television viewers, Mr. Bradley was a sober presence — albeit one with salt-and-pepper stubble and a stud in one ear — whose reporting for CBS across four decades ranged from the Vietnam War and Cambodian refugee crisis to the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church and the Columbine High School shooting. His most prominent interviews over the years included those with Timothy McVeigh and the convicted killer (and author) Jack Henry Abbott, and with the performers Michael Jackson, Robin Williams and Lena Horne. He won 19 Emmy awards, according to CBS, including one for lifetime achievement in 2003.

In the three years since his bypass operation, Mr. Bradley had more than 60 segments broadcast on “60 Minutes” — more than any other correspondent. “And he kept track,” said Jeff Fager, the program’s executive producer.

But Mr. Bradley’s life off camera was often as rich and compelling as his life in the studio. Having begun his broadcast career as a disc jockey in Philadelphia, Mr. Bradley was an enormous fan of many forms of music — particularly jazz and gospel. He counted the musicians Wynton Marsalis, Aaron Neville and George Wein among his friends and made regular pilgrimages to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. At his death, he was also the host of “Jazz at Lincoln Center Radio With Ed Bradley,” broadcast weekly on 240 public radio stations.

“I made the mistake once of letting him get onstage with my band, and he never stopped doing it,” said Mr. Buffett, who was introduced to Mr. Bradley 30 years ago in Key West, Fla., by a mutual friend, Hunter S. Thompson.

Mr. Bradley had many nicknames throughout his life, including Big Daddy, when he played defensive end and offensive tackle in the 1960s at Cheyney State College (now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania); but his favorite, Ms. Hunter-Gault and Mr. Buffett said, was Teddy Badly, which Mr. Buffett bestowed on him onstage the first time Mr. Bradley played tambourine at his side.

“Everybody in my opinion needs a little Mardi Gras in their life,” Mr. Buffett said, “and he liked to have a little more than the average person on occasion.”

“He was such a great journalist,” Mr. Buffett added, “but he still knew how to have a good time.”

Edward Rudolph Bradley Jr. was born June 22, 1941, in Philadelphia. His father was a businessman and his mother a homemaker. After his parents divorced, he spent summers with his father at his home in Detroit, said Marie Dutton Brown, a literary agent and Philadelphia native.

Ms. Dutton Brown said she met Mr. Bradley in the mid-1960s, after he graduated from Cheyney State with a degree in education, when both worked for the Philadelphia schools. Mr. Bradley, she said, taught elementary school.

At the time, she said, his dream was to attend the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. But on the strength of his work in his other job at the time — at WDAS radio, where he was a news reporter and host of a jazz show — he was hired as a reporter at WCBS radio in New York. “And that was that,” Ms. Dutton Brown said.

In 1971, after four years at WCBS, he joined CBS News, as a stringer in its Paris bureau. The next year, he was reassigned to the network’s Saigon bureau, where he stayed until 1974, when he moved to its Washington office. Mr. Bradley, who was wounded on assignment in Cambodia, had become a full-fledged correspondent while in Southeast Asia. In 1975, he volunteered to return to the region to cover the fall of Saigon.

His reporting on Cambodian refugees, as broadcast on the “CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite” and “CBS News Sunday Morning,” won a George Polk Award. After covering Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign, he covered the Carter White House from 1976 to 1978. He was also anchor of the “CBS Sunday Night News” from 1976 to 1981.

It was in 1981 that Don Hewitt, the founding executive producer of “60 Minutes,” hired Mr. Bradley for the program, the most prestigious (and arguably the most competitive) news magazine on television.

And yet, despite having to jockey for airtime with heavyweights like Mr. Wallace and Morley Safer, Mr. Bradley stood out — in no small measure because of the competence and decency he conveyed, said Mr. Fager, a longtime producer on the program who succeeded Mr. Hewitt last year.

“Not only was he just a natural broadcaster and storyteller, but he was filled with integrity and credibility, in the way Cronkite was as an anchorman,” Mr. Fager said yesterday. “He had no pretensions. He was a remarkable, likeable, wonderful man you just wanted to be around.”

He also had a wicked sense of humor. At one point, Mr. Fager said, Mr. Bradley tried to convince Mr. Hewitt that he wished to change his name to Shahib Shahab, and thus the opening of the “60 Minutes” broadcast to: “I’m Mike Wallace. I’m Morley Safer. I’m Shahib Shahab.”

“He let the gag run for quite some time,” Mr. Fager said. “Don was quite concerned.”

Mr. Bradley, who had no children, is survived by Ms. Blanchet, whom he married two years ago at his home in Aspen, Colo., said Ms. Hunter-Gault. His two previous marriages, to Diane Jefferson and Priscilla Coolidge, ended in divorce, Ms. Hunter-Gault said.

For Ms. Hunter-Gault, who left The New York Times for the “MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour” on PBS in 1978, Mr. Bradley was more than just someone who helped clear an early path to national television for herself and other black journalists — a distinction he shared with, among others, Max Robinson and Lem Tucker.

“I think people might want to characterize him as a trailblazer for black journalists,” she said yesterday, by cellphone from outside Mr. Bradley’s hospital room just after his death. “I think he’d be proud of that. But I think Ed was a trailblazer for good journalism. Period.”

In the weeks before his final hospitalization, Mr. Bradley had been scrambling to finish the Duke report in particular, while fending off what would become the early stages of pneumonia.

“He just kept hitting the road,” Ms. Hunter-Gault said. “Every time I talked to him, he was tired. I’d say, ‘Why don’t you go home and rest?’ He’d say, ‘I just want to get this piece done.’ ”

“He was proud of what he did,” she said. “But he never allowed that pride to turn him into a star in his own head.”

“In his own head,” she added, “he was always Teddy.”

Ed Bradley of '60 Minutes' Dies at 65

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer

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?' "

He told the Radio Television News Directors Association magazine: "My formula for success has three elements: the talent you're given, the hard work you do to get better at whatever it is that you do, and a certain amount of luck. And I always found that the harder I worked, the better my luck was, because I was prepared for that. I will not go into a story unprepared. I will do my homework, and that's something I learned at an early age."

Edward R. Bradley was born June 22, 1941, in a tough section of west Philadelphia, where, he recalled, his parents worked 20-hour days, with two jobs each. He graduated from what is now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, a historically black college.

As a center and defensive end on the school's football team, the six-foot, 235-pound Bradley was nicknamed "Big Daddy." Forty-three years, a heart bypass operation and 45 fewer pounds later, "my new nickname is 'Tiny Daddy,' " he told Shister.

Bradley taught sixth grade after college and worked at night and without pay as a disc jockey playing jazz and doing play-by-play for basketball games on WDAS-FM radio in Philadelphia.

His first news story was covering riots in north Philadelphia, which won him a minimum-wage salary of $1.25 an hour. By 1967, he was hired at the all-news WCBS Radio in New York City. In 1971, Bradley moved to Paris and broke into TV as a stringer for CBS News.

He went to the Saigon bureau and was in Cambodia in 1973 when he was wounded in the left arm by mortar fire and shrapnel peppered his back. The soldier standing next to him was killed.

Bradley returned to the United States, in the CBS Washington bureau, covering Carter's presidential campaign. He became White House correspondent from 1976 to 1978 and anchored the Sunday evening newscast. He hated being tied to an office and soon jumped to "CBS Reports" as its principal correspondent, traveling to Cambodia, China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

It was his Emmy-winning 1979 work on a story about Vietnamese boat people that brought him wide attention. In it, he plunged into the South China Sea off Malaysia to help pull them to safety. Later in the piece, he was besieged by thousands of refugees at a shantytown who were desperate to get messages to relatives around the world.

The work landed him on "60 Minutes" in 1981, the first African American on that program.

He always remembered where he came from, said another old friend, Acel Moore, an associate editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He visited Philadelphia regularly and kept in touch with old friends, Moore said, never bragging but seeming to delight in his success. In 1985, while being interviewed by Playboy magazine, Bradley pointed to a photo on his office wall. "For me to be able to stand up in the Khyber Pass and say, 'Boy, here's little Butch Bradley from West Philly. Alexander the Great passed through here 2,500 years ago' -- God, I mean, that's a kick!"

His death took most colleagues by surprise. Schieffer, who last saw Bradley in September, said he was "struck that day by how frail he looked." Bradley, who had coronary bypass surgery in 2003, entered the hospital last week, Schieffer said, for what friends thought was pneumonia.

Bradley became one the most recognized journalists in America when he joined "60 Minutes" and was described as one of the most trusted TV personalities and ranked second only to retired CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite in competence in a 1995 TV Guide poll.

Cronkite told the Associated Press that Bradley "was tough in an interview, he was insistent on getting an interview, 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."

His first marriage ended in divorce, as did his second, to Priscilla Coolidge.

Survivors include his wife, Patricia Blanchet of New York.

"I should tell you I'm not finished yet," he told the NABJ last year. "There are many more rivers to cross, and many more stories to cover, and I hope, a lot left in this lifetime."