David Halberstam dies

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David Halberstam dies

Apr 24 2007

David Halberstam was one of America's most distinguished journalists and historians, a man whose newspaper reporting and books helped define the era we live in. He graduated from Harvard in 1955, took his first job on the smallest daily in Mississippi, and then covered the early civil rights struggle for the Nashville Tennessean. He joined The New York Times in 1960, went overseas almost immediately, first to the Congo and then to Vietnam. His early pessimistic dispatches from Vietnam won him the Pulitzer in 1964 at the age of thirty. Many of his books, including The Best and the Brightest, The Powers That Be, The Reckoning, and The Fifties, have been national bestsellers.

Over the years, he developed a pattern of alternating a book with a weighty theme with one that might seem of slighter import but to which he nonetheless applied his considerable reportorial muscles. “He was a man who didn’t have a lazy bone in his body,” said the writer Gay Talese, a close family friend. Almost invariably, Mr. Halberstam wrote about sports in those alternate books. “They were his entertainments,” his wife said. “They were his way to take a break.”

He was born on April 10, 1934 in New York City.  His father, Dr Charles A Halberstam, was an Army surgeon; his mother, Blanche Levy Halberstam, a schoolteacher. 

After Vietnam and after winning his Pulitzer Prize, Mr. Halberstam was assigned to the Times bureau in Warsaw. There, he met an actress, Elzbieta Czyzewska, whom he married in 1965, but the marriage was short-lived. In 1979, he married Jean Sandness, then a writer. 

He died in a car crash south of San Francisco on April 23, 2007.  The car that he was a passenger in was hit broadside by another car and knocked into a third vehicle.  Mr Halberstam, who lived in Manhattan, was on his way to interview Y.A. Tittle, the former New York Giants quarterback, for a book about the 1958 championship game between the Giants and the Baltimore Colts.

He is survived by his wife and daughter, Julia, who both live in Manhattan.

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