04.23.07

David Halberstam, RIP

Posted in Dead Authors at 7:55 pm by

From the San Jose Mercury News’ Connie Skipitares and S.L. Wykes (thanks to Tim Midgett for the link)

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author David Halberstam was killed in a three-car accident this morning in Menlo Park near the Dumbarton Bridge, the San Mateo County Coroner’s Office announced.Halberstam, author of 15 bestsellers, died at the scene after the car in which he was a front-seat passenger was broadsided by another vehicle. The coroner’s office said he died of massive internal injuries.

Halberstam graduated from Harvard University, where he excelled as editor of the school newspaper, the Crimsom. But in a 1993 interview with the Mercury News, he admitted he didn’t do nearly as well in the classroom.

“I was a terrible student,” Halberstam said to former Mercury News columnist Murry Frymer. “Sometimes when I talk to students now, I ask, `Who here is in the bottom third of the class?’ When they raise their hands, I say, `Well, you are being addressed by another one.’”

Halberstam began his journalism career at the Daily Times Leader in West Point, Miss., at a time when race was the major story in the South. His first employer was “the smallest daily in Mississippi” at the time, with a circulation of 4,000. He was a one-person reporting staff for an editor who didn’t like the well-bred Jewish kid from Harvard, according to the Frymer story.

“But I was the most productive reporter he had ever had. Still, after I wrote a piece for the (now-defunct) Reporter magazine on the civil rights sit-ins in Yazoo City, instead of praise, I got fired. He told me, `It’s time for you to go. Go spread your wings somewhere else.’”

Halberstam moved to the Nashville Tennessean and then the New York Times in 1960. Within three years, Halberstam was reporting on the Vietnam War. His reporting on the war angered President Kennedy, who asked the New York Times to transfer him to another bureau. Halberstam would win a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Vietnam.

Halberstam also covered Poland, where he was expelled after problems with censorship in the communist country. After six years at the Times, Halberstam said he felt stifled.

But he embarked as an equally distinguished career as an author. Halberstam wrote 15 bestsellers, including “The Best and the Brightest” on the Vietnam War, “Summer of `49″ on the 1949 pennant race between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Box and his latest book, “The Education of a Coach” on New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

His next book “The Coldest Winter” was to be an account of a battle of the Korean War.

Though Halberstam authored several books no library should be without, his “Breaks Of The Game” is a fascinating account of the late 70′s NBA and should be of particular interest to readers of this blog.

4 Responses to “David Halberstam, RIP”

  1. kt says:

    Though Halberstam authored several books no library should be without, his “Breaks Of The Game” is a fascinating account of the late 70’s NBA and should be of particularly interest to readers of this blog.

    absolutely. as i was saying somewhere else earlier this morning, breaks of the game was my first favorite book that was written for children. i read it as an 11 year old in the summer of ’84 and have re-read it a dozen times since then. i get something new out of it each time and get a deeper appreciation for the ease and style of his writing. i wish i still had a copy. truly a shame, he will be missed.

  2. kt says:

    er, WASN’T written for children.

  3. BTC says:

    I’m so unsettled by his untimely death. A light of truth has been extinguished. Whatever he wrote and whenever he spoke, one could always be confident that it was the truthful product of insightful reflection and premised on a profound understanding of the nuances and larger issues of the topic defined by contemporary events and explained in the broader sweep of time. The world, America, and all of us have lost one of our time’s greatest truth tellers. Somehow his loss feels as personal to me as if I knew him.

  4. David Hicks says:

    We have lost one of the last remaining truly great journalists who could dissect an issue with honesty, fairness, wit, and the ability to turn a phrase. I cannot think of a single contemporary journalist who can come close to filling his literary shoes. His topics, which would have turned into dull texts in the hands of many writers, read like page-turning novels. He proved to me that truth, in the hands of a talented writer, is stranger and much more interesting than fiction. No one captured the age in which I grew up more accurately and gracefully than David Halberstram.

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