Remembering Harry Radliffe II

Beloved 60 Minutes producer contributed nearly 100 stories over 26 years

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Harry Radliffe II

He was inquisitive, passionate and utterly relentless. 60 Minutes producer Harry Radliffe, our friend and colleague who died this week at 66, pursued stories over months, even years. If that pursuit took him to another continent, well, even better. Harry was determined to experience as much of the world as possible -- and to let 60 Minutes viewers ride shotgun as he did.

Harry first joined 60 Minutes in 1989 after serving as CBS News' first African-American bureau chief in London, where he indulged a lifelong interest in foreign affairs. Even as a high school student in Indiana, he sent away for The Manchester Guardian newspaper to broaden his own horizons. In later years, he could never quite shake the feeling that he was just a "kid from Indianapolis" who lucked into a stunning career.

"I've just always been curious about the world," Harry told Overtime Editor Ann Silvio in a recent interview. "I mean it's thrilling to get off an airplane and you're in India. It's thrilling to get off an airplane and you're in China," he said. "And to, you know, go off with a camera and be able to come back with a story that you put together and show it to people, I mean - what's not cool about that?"

"A kid from Indianapolis"

If globetrotting was cool, it was also exhausting. But working under intense pressure in difficult circumstances helped him forge lifelong friendships, Harry said, including one with 60 Minutes Executive Producer Jeff Fager, then a young producer in London.

You "develop a close relationship with those people because you go through a lot together," Harry said. "It was pure joy, working the way we worked."

Crisscrossing the globe for CBS News

After joining 60 Minutes, Harry had more time to spend on stories, and that time afforded him another luxury -- a chance to explore the places where he was reporting. It was a desire he shared with the late correspondent Bob Simon, with whom he often worked. Wherever they traveled, he said, they were eager to sample the local food, wine and culture.

"If you're going to learn something about the people, you've got to go where they are," he told Overtime. "And that means getting out of the lobby of your hotel."

Exploring while reporting abroad

Harry's enormous body of work at 60 Minutes - nearly 100 stories in all - is notable for its tremendous range. He visited cities in the Middle East, forests in Central Africa and, through a telescope, the farthest reaches of outer space. His profiles were no less diverse -- a roster that included LeBron James, Toni Morrison and Elon Musk.

One of his earliest stories, a report on the only U.S. serviceman disciplined after a friendly fire incident in the Persian Gulf War, won a Peabody Award, the industry's highest honor.

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Harry Radliffe in the field circa 1985 Courtesy of Michael Gavshon

Other pieces were more lighthearted, but just as remarkable. Working with the late Ed Bradley, he produced a 2005 report on "The Lord God Bird," a rare, ivory-billed woodpecker whose nickname was derived from "Lord God, what a bird!" -- a common reaction to its beauty.

As with many of Harry's stories, part of the magic came from colorful writing. Harry cared about good writing, and considered it hard work. "For some people, it's dead easy," he told Overtime Editor Ann Silvio. "I'm one of those guys that takes days to write a paragraph, takes years to write a script."

Harry the writer

Some of his stories played out over years as well. In 2000, Harry traveled to Venezuela for a story on the country's youth orchestra that mentored a talented 19-year-old. Eight years later, that wild-haired young man, Gustavo Dudamel, had become music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and earned a 60 Minutes profile of his own.

Dudamel was just one of the interesting characters Harry introduced to our viewers. Another was Sir Nicholas Winton, a British stockbroker who managed to rescue hundreds of children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II. When Winton died last summer at age 106, Harry wrote that he had found him "charming, funny and more than a little irreverent," and that he felt inspired by Winton's modest heroism.

"I think that's one of the special things about this broadcast. That you can decide to go off and chase an impossible dream."

While Harry refused to name "favorite" stories, he did consider his segment on Mount Athos, a community of ancient Christian Orthodox monasteries on a remote peninsula in northern Greece, one of the most extraordinary. He described it as a "visit to another world" and it's easy to see why -- few film crews have ever been allowed inside. Harry's team was the first in 40 years, and only after years of trying.

When the story was finished, Harry felt compelled to return to Mount Athos to thank the monks for trusting him with their story. In the end, he said, they were so pleased with the experience, they referred to him as "beloved."

Harry's emotional return to Mount Athos

It was a story that almost didn't happen, Harry recalled, but having the time and freedom to keep pursuing it was one of the things he loved most about working at 60 Minutes.

"I think that's one of the special things about this broadcast," he said. "That you can decide to go off and chase an impossible dream."

Article and video clips were produced by Lisa Orlando, Ann Silvio and Cassi Feldman, and edited by Lisa Orlando.