The late “60 Minutes” journalist Ed Bradley was eulogized as a man who believed he was doing God’s work during a memorial Tuesday that drew admirers from National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern to shock jock Howard Stern.
Former President Clinton was a surprise guest, remembering Bradley as “mesmerizing because you knew you were watching a master at work.”
Bradley died of leukemia at 65 on Nov. 9. His family organized a memorial at the Riverside Church that doubled as New York’s hippest concert venue for the day: Aaron and Art Neville, Jimmy Buffett, Allen Toussaint, Wynton Marsalis, Lizz Wright and Irma Thomas all performed in tribute to Bradley, a music lover.
“A full house,” said Sony chief executive Howard Stringer, one of Bradley’s first producers at CBS News. “He deserved it.”
Former colleagues and friends paid tribute to Bradley, one of television’s pioneering black journalists, for both his work and the spirit he brought to life.
“I learned a lot from Ed Bradley, and not just about journalism,” said fellow “60 Minutes” reporter Steve Kroft. “I learned a lot about friendship, manners, clothes, wine, freshly cut flowers — which he had delivered to his office every week — and the importance of stopping and smelling them every once in awhile.”
Bradley was a Philadelphia native who worked as a sixth-grade teacher and disc jockey, occasionally doing news reports for a local radio station.
He got a call to audition for WCBS-AM in New York and jumped at it. After reporting in New York, he worked in Vietnam, where he was injured while working on a story. He was one of the last reporters there, at the U.S. embassy when Americans left the country in a desperate airlift.
Comic Bill Cosby, a fellow Philadelphian, recalled the days Bradley was at historically black Cheyney State College (now Cheyney University) and told his football coach that he couldn’t afford half his tuition. The coach came up with the money — all $75 of it.
“Ed was the center,” Cosby said. “Even on an all-black team everybody couldn’t be in the backfield.”
Forty years later, Bradley wrote a check for $60,000 to start a foundation at Cheyney, so he could help financially strapped students the way he was, Cosby said.
Clinton recalled a story Bradley had done about a rare woodpecker in Arkansas. “It was the first time in 30 years that I knew as much about what he was talking about than he did,” said the former Arkansas governor.
“I knew I had arrived in national politics when Ed Bradley wanted to interview me,” Clinton said. “I always preferred watching him interview others.”
Journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault said Bradley believed he was doing God’s work. All his interview subjects knew he’d treat them with respect, “even though it came wrapped in a tough question.”
She recalled visiting him in the hospital during his last days, his eyes becoming animated as he watched his beloved New York Knicks and when he saw the devotion of his wife Patricia.
“He did not go gently into that good night,” she said. “He raged and raged against the dying of the light. But there came a time when Ed knew it was time.”