When “60 Minutes” correspondent Ed Bradley interviewed retired judge Peter Macdonald for a segment in 1999, Macdonald was a little intimidated.
But in a matter of seconds, Bradley set Macdonald and his wife at ease.
“I could not have met a kinder, truer gentleman,” he said. “He was polite to a fault.”
The 26-year veteran of “60 Minutes” died Thursday of leukemia at age 65.
He interviewed Macdonald for a segment on domestic violence enforcement in the military, which aired on Jan. 17, 1999. Macdonald served as a district court judge for 25 years and ran for the 9th District House of Representatives.
During the interview, Macdonald was struck by how intelligent Bradley was. Even though he had prepared questions and researched domestic violence beforehand, he was able to create follow-up questions on the spot when Macdonald brought up something new.
“It’s almost like he knew intimately every subject he was interviewing about,” Macdonald said.
After the interview, Bradley and his producers kept in touch with Macdonald. When Bradley traveled to Nashville to interview a young woman for the segment, he asked Macdonald to come and meet with him.
When Macdonald heard the news of Bradley’s death, he said it felt like he’d lost a friend. Even though he’d only met Bradley twice, he’d watched him on “60 Minutes” for years.
“It’s a real loss, because he had a gift. I wish other people could’ve met him,” he said. “I was just really saddened.”
Bradley’s story brought domestic violence in the military to the forefront. After the segment ran, the Department of Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence was formed, and Macdonald was invited to be a member.
“When it came on, the secretary of defense said ‘we gotta do something,’” Macdonald said. “It was probably the most important thing I’ve ever done.”
Macdonald remembers Bradley’s uncanny ability to set his subjects at ease and make an interview go smoothly.
“Not everybody has that ability,” he said. “He genuinely liked people and got to know them as best he could. He was a genuinely nice man.”
The award-winning journalist straddled many worlds during his career at CBS news.
Bradley covered Vietnam and the White House. He profiled singer Lena Horne and scored the only TV interview with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. He collected the latest of his 19 Emmys for a segment on the reopening of the 50-year-old racial murder case of Emmett Till.
He defied expectations and stereotypes, and, as a black man who penetrated an overwhelmingly white profession, broke racial barriers along the way.
Jenn Basham can be reached at 887-3262 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Associated Press Writers Jake Coyle and Verena Dobnik in New York contributed to this report.