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60 Minute Man Ed Bradley Dies of Cancer

NEAL CONAN, host:

Ed Bradley, one of journalism's best-known broadcasters died earlier today in New York City. He was 65 and suffered from leukemia. Bradley was a stalwart in the news business, a correspondent, later, co-editor for 60 Minutes on CBS for nearly 30 years.

He won numerous awards for his reporting including 19 Emmys. The most recent for his reporting on the re-opening of the brutal, racially motivated murder of Emit Till in the 1950s. Ed Bradley covered the news in Paris, Vietnam and Cambodia. Viewers of 60 Minutes will remember his interviews with Timothy McVaye, Michael Jackson, Mohammad Ali and, of course, Lina Horn.

A native of Philadelphia, Bradley graduated from Cheyney State College and was a teacher before he became a journalist. Back in 2005, Ed Bradley was a guest on this program and talked about his training as a journalist. Let's listen to a bit of what he said. This is Ed Bradley on TALK OF THE NATION in June, 2005.

(Soundbite of archived clip of Ed Bradley interview)

Mr. ED BRADLEY (Journalist and Host of 60 Minutes): What I learned about journalism, I learned in the school of hard knocks. In my first job, I learned how to do this. I never had a course in journalism. So, I had to learn it by doing it. And sometimes I think that's the best way to do it. I think that having the opportunity to go out and cover a story, you learn a lot more about how to do that than sitting in the classroom and having some professor tell you how to cover a story.

CONAN: Our interview with Ed Bradley followed several scandals in the newspaper and broadcasting business. And known as a reporter's reporter with a strong sense of ethics I asked him where he learned his ethics.

Mr. BRADLEY: You know, I think that you have an internal compass that you come to the table with that internal compass. And then I think that there is a sense of ethics at the organization where you work. And I think it varies from organization to organization and I think within an organization. It can change over the years.

But when I came to CBS there was a sense of this is how we do this, and we don't do this. And you learn that not just from doing it but from observation and watching other people because when I first came to CBS I didn't get on the air very much.

When I went to Washington from - after Vietnam in 1974, you know, there were 26 reporters and correspondents in Washington and I was number 26.

CONAN: Some of what Ed Bradley had to say to us when he joined us on this program in June of 2005. You can hear the entire conversation at our Web site, NPR.org. You could also hear longtime friend and 60 Minutes producer, Don Hewitt, talk about his late colleague, again that's at NPR.org.

Vicki Mabrey is a correspondent with ABC News Nightline who worked with Ed Bradley while she was a correspondent on 60 Minutes, too. And Vicki Mabrey joins us now from the studios of ABC Radio News in New York. And it's nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Ms. VICKI MABREY (Correspondent, ABC News Nightline): Thank you very much, Neal, and I was just heartsick when I heard that this morning. You know, in the halls at 60 Minutes, Ed at age 65 was kind of a kid over there. When you consider Morley, Mike Wallace, Andy Rooney - Ed was a kid. I never thought it would be Ed.

CONAN: And Don Hewitt for that matter.

Ms. MABREY: And Don Hewitt, yeah. And you say he was Ed's colleague. He was nominally Ed's boss, but I don't think anybody was really the boss of Ed, except Ed.

CONAN: And as much - well, let me ask you, when did you first become aware of Ed Bradley?

Ms. MABREY: I think I've been aware of Ed Bradley most of my life. Well, certainly, ever since he joined 60 Minutes. I don't remember him during Vietnam, but I do remember when he first went on 60 Minutes because in an African-American household, believe me, we were running to the TV set on Sunday nights. Of course, along with the rest of America, we wanted to see whatever was on 60 Minutes.

But if Ed was on there, that was an amazing thing. Look, there's a guy on there who looks just like the rest of us and he's taking on - taking us on adventures all around the world. And this guy is powerful. He is telling us the news. He was such a role model to me. And then, for me to actually meet him and work with him, he actually became a mentor, as well.

CONAN: We're speaking with Vicki Mabrey, ABC News Nightline correspondent about the late Ed Bradley. And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

You've described him, you're not the only one, as a consummate journalist. What do you mean by that?

Ms. MABREY: Ed was one of the best interviewers and I think - like he was saying, you have your own internal compass. I think it just came out of his natural curiosity and it came out of his warmth toward other people. If you see the Lina Horn interview, you'll see them holding hands, walking together.

Ed just inspired that kind of confidence in people. As soon as you met him, you felt like, oh, I've known him forever. I've known him my whole life. He was just a warm person. You see the Vietnam clips where he is crying after he's been injured. You see where he jumps out and he is helping people out of the boats, helping them get on to land.

Journalists are supposed to stand on the shore and just watch. But that wouldn't be Ed and he wouldn't do that for the camera. It was just - this is the right thing to do. I need to help these people. You forget the journalism. I just need to be a human being at this moment.

CONAN: He was also a pioneer. I was reading a quote today from Don Hewitt who said as soon as we put him on camera, he jumped out of the television set and he said I wonder what took us so long.

Ms. MABREY: I wonder indeed. He is just - I spoke with one of his producers today and the first thing she said before bursting into tears was that great, big, wonderful man because he was - he was a tall man. He was over 6-feet tall, but he was just larger than life in person, on the screen. You knew you had met somebody when you met Ed Bradley.

CONAN: Let's see if…

Ms. MABREY: What a voice, what a presence.

CONAN: Let's see if we get a caller on the line and this is Tim. Tim, calling us from Sacramento in California.

TIM (Caller): Hello there.

CONAN: Hi, Tim.

TIM: Hi, there. Yeah. I got many fond memories of Mr. Bradley and I just, you know, I grew up very quickly. I, you know, when I was young watching 60 Minutes and love all of the correspondents. And at a funny story, a friend of mine and I actually snuck into the 2000 Democratic National Convention and we were coming up the stairs and I was kind of a spotter as well as the cameraman for my, sort of, fake news correspondent, and Ed Bradley came up the stairs. And I mistakenly called him, Morley Safer and he didn't miss - he didn't missed a beat. He said it's Bradley, and he kind of kept going and, you know, not in an bad way but I - it was so funny that I confused a 6-foot-5 black man with a 5-foot-nothing Jewish man.

CONAN: Tim…

Ms. MABREY: And Canadian on top of that. Morley is…

CONAN: Canadian to boot.

TIM: A Canadian to boot, that's right.

CONAN: Yeah. Tim, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

TIM: Thank you very much.

CONAN: In addition to - I have to ask - his passion was music.

Ms. MABREY: Oh, his passion was jazz and also collecting African art. In fact, that's how he met his wife. Ed was a very private person and a lot of people - I guess you're finding that out today because a lot of us didn't know about the leukemia.

He had quadruple bypass surgery and he didn't want people to know. He walked out of the door one day and got married and came back in and hardly said a thing about it. But his passions, absolutely, were jazz and African art. And his wife, as I was saying, was an African art curator and that's how they met. They share that passion.

CONAN: When all is said and done, what do you think will be remembered about Ed Bradley?

Ms. MABREY: His sense of self, his self-possession, I called him Mr. Cool, his genuineness. It's funny that somebody can be cool and warm at the same time. And also his sense of style, Ed wore that earring on the air. You didn't do that. Men just didn't wear, especially not straight men, just didn't wear earrings on the air. But that was Ed. He wore a beret. He wore his earring. He loved his Prada. He was just the consummate, consummate gentleman.

CONAN: Ed Bradley made us think and he made us laugh. He'll be missed?

Ms. MABREY: Very much.

CONAN: Vicki Mabrey, thanks very much for your time today.

Ms. MABREY: Thank you.

CONAN: Vicki Mabrey, an ABC News Nightline correspondent who worked with Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes, too. Ed Bradley died earlier today in New York City from leukemia at the age of 65.

(Soundbite of music)

Ira Flatow will be here with Science Friday tomorrow. We'll see you on Monday. I'm Neal Conan. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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