Edward Rudolph “Ed” Bradley, Jr. (June 22, 1941 – November 9, 2006) was an American journalist, best known for twenty-six years of award-winning work on the CBS News television program 60 Minutes. During his earlier career he also covered the fall of Saigon, was the first black television correspondent to cover the White House, and anchored his own news broadcast, CBS Sunday Night with Ed Bradley.
Bradley was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents divorced when he was two, after which he was raised by his mother Gladys, who worked two jobs to make ends meet. Bradley, who was referred to with the childhood name of “Butch Bradley” was able to see his father, who was in the vending machine business and owned a restaurant in Detroit, in the summertime. When he was 9, his mother enrolled him in the Holy Providence School, an all-black Catholic boarding school run by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament at Cornwells Heights, Pennsylvania. He attended Mount Saint Charles Academy, in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and then another historically black school, Cheyney State College (now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania) in Cheyney, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1964 with a degree in Education. His first job was teaching sixth grade at the William B. Mann Elementary School in Philadelphia’s Wynnefield community. While he was teaching, he moonlighted at the old WDAS studios on Edgley Drive in Philadelphia‘s Fairmount Park, working for free and later, for minimum wage. He programmed music, read news, and covered basketball games and other sports.
Bradley’s introduction to news reporting came at WDAS-FM during the riots in Philadelphia in the 1960s. In 1967, he landed a full-time job at the CBS-owned New York radio station WCBS. In 1971, he moved to Paris, France. Initially living off his savings, he eventually ran out of money, and began working as a stringer for CBS News, covering the Paris Peace Talks. In 1972, he volunteered to be transferred to Saigon to cover the Vietnam War, as well as spending time in Phnom Penh covering the war in Cambodia. It was there that he was injured by a mortar round, receiving shrapnel wounds to his back and arm.
In 1974, he moved to Washington, D.C., and was promoted to covering the Carter campaign in 1976. He then became CBS News’ White House correspondent (the first black White House television correspondent) until 1978, when he was invited to move to “CBS Reports”, where he served as principal correspondent until 1981. In that year, Walter Cronkite departed as anchor of the CBS Evening News, and was replaced by the 60 Minutes correspondent Dan Rather, leaving an opening on the program which was filled by Bradley.
Over the course of Bradley’s twenty-six years on 60 Minutes, he did over 500 stories, covering nearly every possible type of news, from “heavy” segments on war, politics, poverty and corruption, to lighter biographical pieces, or stories on sports, music, and cuisine. Among others, he interviewed Howard Stern, Laurence Olivier, Subcomandante Marcos, Timothy McVeigh, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Bill Bradley, the 92-year-old George Burns, and Michael Jordan, as well as conducting the first television interview of Bob Dylan in 20 years. Some of his quirkier moments included playing blackjack with the blind Ray Charles, interviewing a Soviet general in a Russian sauna, and having a practical joke played on him by Muhammad Ali. Bradley’s favorite segment on 60 Minutes was when as a 40-year-old correspondent, he interviewed 64-year-old singer Lena Horne. He said, “If I arrived at the pearly gates and Saint Peter said, ‘What have you done to deserve entry?’ I’d just say, ‘Did you see my Lena Horne story?'”
On the show, Bradley was known for his sense of style, and was the first male correspondent to regularly wear an earring on the air. He had his left ear pierced in 1986 and says he was inspired to do it after receiving encouragement from Liza Minnelli following an interview with the actress. He is also thus far the only male “60 Minutes” anchor to do so, though male correspondents from other network programs, including Jim Vance, Jay Schadler and Harold Dow, later wore earrings on camera.
Bradley never had children, but was married to Haitian-born artist Patricia Blanchet, whom he had met at a museum where she was working as a tour guide. Despite the age difference (she was 24 years younger than he), he pursued her, and they dated for ten years before marrying in a private ceremony in Woody Creek, Colorado, where they had a home. Bradley also maintained two homes in New York: one in East Hampton, and the other in New York City.
Bradley was known for loving all kinds of music, but was especially a jazz music enthusiast. He hosted the Peabody Award-winning Jazz at Lincoln Center on National Public Radio for over a decade until just before his death. A big fan of the Neville Brothers, Bradley performed on stage with the bunch, and was known as “the fifth Neville brother”. Bradley was also friends with Jimmy Buffett, and would often perform onstage with him, under the name “Teddy.” Bradley had limited musical ability and did not have an extensive repertoire, but would usually draw smiles by singing the 1951 classic by Billy Ward and the Dominoes, “Sixty Minute Man.” In the company of his longtime friend Jimmy Buffett, Bradley died on November 9, 2006 at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan of complications from lymphocytic leukemia. He was 65 years old.
Bradley was honored in the state 2007 with a traditional jazz funeral procession at the New Orleans Jazzfest, of which he was a large supporter. The parade, which took place on the first day of the six day festival, circled the fairgrounds and included two brass bands.
Columnist Clarence Page wrote:
“ When he was growing up in a working-class neighborhood in Philadelphia, his folks told him he could be anything he wanted to be. He took them up on it. … Even in those days before the doors of opportunity were fully opened to black Americans, Mr. Bradley challenged the system. He worked hard and prepared himself. He opened himself to the world and dared the world to turn him away. He wanted to be a lot and he succeeded. Thanks to examples like his, the rest of us know that we can succeed, too. ”
Bradley had been a season ticket holder to the New York Knicks for over 20 years. On November 13, 2006 they honored him with a moment of silence. On the 60 Minutes program after Bradley’s death, his longtime friend Wynton Marsalis closed the show with a solo trumpet performance, playing some of the music Bradley loved best.
- Emmy Award 19 times
- Peabody Award for African AIDS report, “Death By Denial”
- Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award
- Paul White Award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association
- George Polk Award for Foreign Television (1979)
- In 2005, the National Association of Black Journalists awarded Bradley, who was one of the first African Americans to break into network television news, with their Lifetime Achievement Award.
- 2007, Bradley posthumously won the 66th annual George Foster Peabody award for his examination of the Duke University rape case.