'Butch' Bradley, The Early Years

How A Boy From Philadelphia Became A World-Class Reporter

This segment originally aired on Nov. 12, 2006.

Those qualities that made Ed Bradley a great reporter grew out of the experiences of early years. Ed was born on June 22, 1941 in Philadelphia to parents who divorced when he was a little boy, when everyone called him "Butch Bradley."

As correspondent Lesley Stahl reports, he was raised as an only child by his mother Gladys, who was ambitious for her son. As Ed told Charlie Rose, she and he would argue over how little they had when he was growing up. She would ask him: "But were you ever hungry?"

"I said, 'No, I wasn't hungry.' But we were poor. She didn't see it that way. I mean, my mother worked. My mother, everyone in my family always had more than one job," Bradley said during an interview on Charlie Rose's show on PBS. "Even in the extended family. I mean, my mother worked at Horn and Hardart's restaurant in Philadelphia. It was an automat. She worked on her days off as a domestic."

"The marks of his childhood were all over his soul," says Ruth Streeter, who was Ed's producer at 60 Minutes for 22 years.

Asked whether Ed talked about his mother during their long trips on cars and planes while on assignment, Ruth says, "She was his North Star, his guiding light. And she organized her life so that she could provide him every chance to get out of Philadelphia and become someone."

"My father lived in Detroit. He was in the vending machine business and he had a restaurant," Ed told Charlie Rose.

His relationship with his father was strained; Ed told Ruth about the car rides they took every summer to Detroit. "For the first 15 minutes of the trip while they were in Philadelphia, they would have this awkward conversation, having not seen each other and then once they got outside of Philadelphia there would be silence, and the only sound between them that they shared was the radio," she explains.

When he was nine years old, his mother sent him to a Catholic boarding school, to get him off the streets.

"I can remember a nun I had in school telling me 'You can be whatever you want to be,'" Ed told Rose during their interview. "And I believed her against all the odds then. I mean, thinking of what segregation was about. And I mean, I went to a school for poor children, but someone who told me, 'You can be whatever you want to be.'"

"I believed her," he said.

But Ed was miserable at boarding school. He hated it. "Ed knew what it was like to be lonely, to be displaced," Ruth says. "Those were the kinds of experiences you see in his reporting. He's able to connect with people from all kinds of backgrounds, and any kind of place, because he understands what it's like to be different and the outsider and not fit in."

He went to historically black Cheyney State College to become a teacher. Even then he loved jazz, and soon he was moonlighting as a disc jockey on a Philadelphia station for free.

"I would say, 'Good Evening, welcome to the Sound of Modern Music. I'm your host Little Jazz-Bo, Ed Bradley,'" Ed once said, recalling his radio DJ gig.
  • Daniel Schorn

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