NEW YORK – CBS News newsman Ed Bradley died of leukemia Thursday at the age of 65, the network confirmed.
CBS said Bradley, a pioneering black journalist who became the network's first African American White House correspondent, passed away at New York's Mount Sinai hospital.
With his signature earring, Bradley was "considered intelligent, smooth, cool, a great reporter, beloved and respected by all his colleagues here at CBS News," Katie Couric said in a special report.
The 2006-07 season was Bradley's 26th on "60 Minutes." He joined the broadcast during the 1981-82 season. He also anchored and reported hour-long specials.
CBS News' Mike Wallace described Bradley as, "a man of gentleness, a man of strength, a man of integrity — he worked so damn hard and he covered the world, seriously. Bradley was a complete reporter and a reporter's reporter."
Wallace told FOX News that around lunchtime every day, Bradley would leave the office and go to the gym. "We figured he was indestructable and to hear what happened is hard to believe," Wallace added.
On the job, Wallace said Bradley "wasn't the least bit reluctant to claim his turf" in his quest to cover the important stories of the day.
Bradley joined "60 Minutes" in 1981, 10 years after he started with the network as a stringer in Paris.
"He was a great journalist who did the most serious work without ever seeming to take himself seriously," Barbara Walters said in a statement.
Bradley grew up in a tough section of Philadelphia, where he once recalled that his parents worked 20-hour days at two jobs apiece. "I was told, 'You can be anything you want, kid,"' he once told an interviewer. "When you hear that often enough, you believe it."
After graduating from Cheney State College, he launched his career as a DJ and news reporter for a Philadelphia radio station in 1963, moving to New York's WCBS radio four years later.
He joined CBS News as a stringer in the Paris bureau in 1971, transferring a year later to the Saigon bureau during the Vietnam War; he was wounded while on assignment in Cambodia. Bradley moved to the Washington bureau in June 1974, 14 months after he was named a CBS News correspondent.
He later returned to Vietnam, covering the fall of that country and Cambodia.
After Southeast Asia, Bradley returned to the United States and covered Jimmy Carter's successful campaign for the White House. He followed Carter to Washington, becoming CBS' first black White House correspondent — a prestigious position that Bradley didn't enjoy.
He jumped from Washington to doing pieces for "CBS Reports," traveling to Cambodia, China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. It was his Emmy-winning 1979 work on a story about Vietnamese boat people, refugees from the war-torn nation, that eventually landed his work on "60 Minutes."
Producer Don Hewitt, in his book "Minute by Minute," was quick to appreciate Bradley's work once he joined the "60 Minutes" crew.
"He's so good and so savvy and so lights up the tube every time he's on it that I wonder what took us so long," Hewitt wrote.
Bradley won 19 Emmys, the latest for a segment that reported the reopening of the 50-year-old racial murder case of Emmett Till. Other Emmys came for reports on brain cancer patients in April 2002, sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in June 2002 and his interview with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in March 2000.
Bradley's reporting on the April 2001 Columbine High School shooting revealed on "60 Minutes II" that authorities ignored telling evidence that could have helped prevent the massacre, according to CBS.
He was just honored with the Lifetime Achievement award from the National Association of Black Journalists.
In 1993, Bradley responded to rumors that he might be lured to ABC News by commenting: "I happen to be on the No. 1 show on television. That's a pretty strong incentive. Besides, CBS is home. There are people here I grew up with."
Bradley retained a lifelong interest in jazz and art, and recently served as a radio host for "Jazz at Lincoln Center."
Wynton Marsalis, artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, called Bradley "one of our definitive cultural figures, a man of unsurpassed curiosity, intelligence, dignity and heart."
Accepting his lifetime achievement award from the black journalists association, Bradley remembered being present at some of the organization's first meetings in New York.
"I look around this room tonight and I can see how much our profession has changed and our numbers have grown," he said. "I also see it every day as I travel the country reporting stories for '60 Minutes.' All I have to do is turn on the TV and I can see the progress that has been made."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.