A look back at the esteemed personalities who left us this year, who’d touched us with their innovation, creativity and humanity.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
In a writing career that spanned six decades, newspaper columnist and author Jimmy Breslin (October 17, 1928-March 19, 2017) became the brash embodiment of the street-smart New Yorker, winning a Pulitzer Prize for articles that, among others, exposed police torture in Queens and took a sympathetic view upon the life of an AIDS patient.
He became a news columnist in 1963 with his singular coverage of the JFK assassination: an interview with the man tasked with digging the president’s grave. He would go on to cover working stiffs, mobsters, city employees on the take, and big-city power brokers. He even became part of a tabloid story himself when, in 1977, he received several letters from the “Son of Sam,” prompting Breslin to quip, “He’s the only killer I ever knew who knew how to use a semicolon.”
Breslin’s several books included a comic novel, “The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight”; biographies of Damon Runyon and Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey; “Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?,” about the New York Mets’ torturously bad first season; and “I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me,” a memoir recounting his brain aneurysm. He also ran a quixotic campaign for city council president, with Norman Mailer for mayor.
In 2002 he talked to the Associated Press about his book, “The Short Sweet Dream of Eduardo Gutierrez” (which told of a young immigrant from Mexico who died on a New York City construction site), and concomitantly explained his work ethic: “I was obsessed with the topic. I did it without any thought of money. Because I know I’m selling a book about a dead Mexican. That REALLY is gonna be a huge success! I did it because I wanted to do it, it should be done. I don’t know of any good it can do beyond that. You do it honestly, you tell the freakin’ truth, and go home.”