Ed Bradley, one of television's most prominent African-American journalists, died of complications from leukemia Thursday. He was 65 years old.
A longtime correspondent for CBS News' "60 Minutes," Bradley's probing questions and salt-and-pepper beard distinguished him for millions of TV viewers. He died this morning at Mount Sinai hospital in New York City.
Bradley was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago but was in remission. He apparently took a turn for the worse two weeks ago, contracting pneumonia and succumbing to the disease.
Colleagues and fans remembered him fondly. "He was the equal of all the celebrities he interviewed, which is why he got so much rich material out of them ... because they knew he understood them," said ABC's "Nightline" correspondent Vicki Mabrey, who worked with Bradley at CBS. "I used to call him Mr. Cool."
Bradley, who first joined "60 Minutes" in 1981, won 19 Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the Paul White Award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association for his reports. The Philadelphia native started out as a DJ, making $1.50 an hour spinning Miles Davis and Billie Holiday records.
One of Bradley's last "60 Minutes" reports -- interviews with suspects and witnesses in the Duke rape case -- made headlines around the world. During his long career, Bradley interviewed a panoply of personalities -- Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jackson. Bradley got the only TV interview that Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, granted to television.
Some of Bradley's other memorable reports included China's forced labor camps, the devastating effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on a town in Kazakhstan, the impact of schizophrenia, and an unprecedented look at how juries deliberate.
While reporting for CBS in Vietnam, Bradley was once injured in a mortar attack, narrowly escaping death. "The guy who was standing 2 feet from where I had been standing was killed," he told Communicator magazine. "I got some shrapnel in my back, and it blew a hole through my arm. It just sliced through my arm, so I was lucky. I was lucky."
Although one of the first African-American reporters on national TV, Bradley refused to be pigeonholed by his race and doesn't remember letting racism intimidate him. "I probably was too naive to be afraid [when I started out]; that's because there was no one really ahead of me as a trailblazer," Bradley told USA Weekend. "I mean, I had nuns in school who always said to me, from the fourth grade on, 'You can be whatever you want to be.' I guess I believed them."
Bradley was known for his love of jazz, which first touched his heart when he heard "Teach Me Tonight" from Errol Garner's "Concert by the Sea." He frequently attended the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and often sat in with the musicians. Bradley was lured back into DJ work when he recently hosted the "Jazz at Lincoln Center" radio show.
Accordingly, Bradley has said that his most memorable interview was with jazz legend Lena Horne. The intimate portrait, in which he alternated Horne's performances with his questions, became a "textbook example of what a great television interview can be," wrote TV Guide. "Lena" earned Bradley his first Emmy.
A lifelong sports fan, Bradley was a fixture at New York Knicks basketball games and the U.S. Open tennis tournament.
Bradley was married to the artist Patricia Blanchett and had homes in Woody Creek, Colo., and New York City.