On Nov. 9, 2006, 60 Minutes lost one of its pillars, when Ed Bradley succumbed to CLL, a form of leukemia.
Correspondent Morley Safer remembers Ed the way we think he would want us to: as a dedicated reporter, who represented the highest standards of this craft, a man who inspired a whole generation of journalists with a calm elegance that was never an act. He was the genuine article.
Bradley made an extraordinary contribution to the news magazine. He spent 26 years of rooting out the truth, exposing the dark side of the human condition and celebrating the best of it, and having a high old time along the way.
For example, one highlight was the day 42-year-old Ed Bradley met the delicious 64-year-old Lena Horne. It was Ed's favorite story.
"When you say that 'I'm a rich, juicy, ripe plum again…,'" Ed asked Horne about the lyrics in one of her songs.
"Yeah, but you can't help your sexual nature, you know, that's what that line means," the singer replied. "If a lady treats other people as she'd like to be treated, then she's allowed to go roll in the grass, if she wants to."
"Even if she's 64?" Ed asked.
"Even if she's 64, particularly then," Horne replied.
Ed would say of the interview, "If I arrived at the pearly gates and St. Peter said, 'What did you do to deserve entry?' I'd just say, 'Did you see my Lena Horne story?'"
Ed Bradley let people reveal themselves, whether they are angels, or demons like Timothy McVeigh.
"Am I pure evil? Am I the face of terror, sitting here in front of you, or am I able to talk to you man to man?" McVeigh asked Ed.
"Most people in this country think you are the face of evil, don't they?" Ed replied.
"They do," McVeigh said. "I'm just being me."
"Everyone in America saw the pictures on television heard the news on the radio. What was your reaction when you saw those pictures?" Ed asked the Oklahoma City bomber.
"I think like everyone else, I thought it was a tragic event. And that's all I really want to say," McVeigh replied.
"And the children?" Ed asked.
"I thought it was – it was terrible that there were children in the building," McVeigh said.
Ed could not resist the call of the great stories. And most of the great stories are about killing and dying in the dusty and forlorn ends of the earth, places like Kosovo and Somalia.
Working for 60 Minutes, for Ed, in fact for the entire team, was the great liberation from the routine.
He was in the best playground a reporter could ask for, and did he make the most of it, for example trudging through the jungle to keep an appointment with the Mexican rebel Subcomandante Marcos, an international man of mystery, or traveling to eastern Arkansas on a calm reflective sojourn, where he paddled his way in search of the elusive, ivory-billed woodpecker.
In one story, he shared a sauna and a dinner with the general commanding the Soviet nuclear strike force and stayed more or less sober after a force-feeding of vodka. It was just one more "sacrifice" at the altar of journalism.