Former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee died Tuesday. While this is obviously sad news, I’m grateful I had the opportunity to meet him.
I once had to help someone up on the top floor of the Washington Post, where the head honchos sit. When I was done, I walked past Bradlee’s office. His door was open and he was sitting at his desk. I knew this was my chance to have a short conversation with him, so I poked my head in and said hi. I told him I had seen him on a panel at the University of Maryland journalism school, with Maury Povich, Michael Wilbon, Tony Kornheiser, and George Solomon. They were there to talk about Shirley Povich, another legend of journalism.
First, Bradlee asked me why I went all the way out there for the panel. To see him and everyone else, I replied. Then I asked him about Shirley Povich.
That’s when he went into reflection mode, telling me a story about the first time he met Povich at The Post. I don’t remember the entire story – it was obviously more of a moment of admiration for Bradlee than anything – but it involved them first meeting, talking about college football, and Povich looking in a book. I also asked him about Wilbon, to which he replied, “I like Wilbon.” As the conversation concluded, he raised his hand and waved bye.
And, like that, I got MY memorable moment with Ben Bradlee, just as Bradlee got his with Povich.
The only other time I spoke with him was on the elevator on the way to the cafeteria. We were both looking at the soup, I tried some, passed, and he said, “Doesn’t to it for ya?” Nothing special there, other than seeing a man in his 90s still showing up to work. Rest in peace.