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Ed Bradley, 1941-2006

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It’s true that sometimes we print journalists snicker at our broadcast counterparts, especially when they do things like boil down newspaper stories into 90-second packages or, say, stand for live shots in front of closed-down locales late at night for no apparent reason.

They, in turn, make fun of our wardrobes and our paychecks.

But occasionally there are broadcast journalists who transcend their medium and can even induce two most sincere forms of flattery from their print brethren: admiration and envy.

Ed Bradley was one of those guys.

Bradley, best known for his stint on the CBS newsmagazine show “60 Minutes,” a run which began in the 1981-1982 season and lasted until the month before his death, was what some journalists call a “gamer.” He was at ease and capable out in the field, first covering the 1965 Philadelphia riots, later as a rookie reporter for the CBS News Paris bureau and then a war correspondent during the Vietnam conflict, sustaining a shrapnel wound in Cambodia. During his career he interviewed presidents and hustlers, entertainers and athletes, the diseased, the abused, the disenfranchised and the eminently powerful. And he had a way of connecting with his subjects, making them feel comfortable and open.

Ed Bradley was a collector of great quotes.

But he was also a groundbreaker: the first African-American CBS White House correspondent, the first African American on “60 Minutes,” the first broadcast journalist to wear an earring on the air and the only journalist we know of ever to perform on stage with the Neville Brothers.

He counted among his friends Liza Minnelli, Hunter S. Thompson, Jimmy Buffett, Quincy Jones, Wynton Marsalis and other notable figures from politics, journalism and New York society.

He won 20 Emmys, a Peabody and a lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Black Journalists.

He was known for his big heart and sense of charity. During a story on Vietnamese boat people he dove into the South China Sea to rescue some refugees in the water. He fought for African-American causes like the Jackie Robinson Foundation. After Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath devastated the city of New Orleans, one of Bradley’s favored haunts, he lent financial assistance to Marva Wright, his favorite gospel singer, and also the woman who made the pralines he liked when she was displaced by the storm.

But more than all of that, he was the coolest cat ever to grace the screen. Born in a rough part of Philadelphia, a lifelong fan of jazz and American music, an infamous gourmand and smoker of fine cigars, Bradley was a man who lived life and enjoyed its spoils.

He also had a wardrobe that made most print journalists bow their heads in deference.

Ed Bradley will be missed. And we hope there will be more like him to follow.

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