If you didn’t know journalist-author David Halberstam, you certainly felt like you wanted to after his memorial at Riverside Church yesterday. Friends and family praised the Pulitzer Prize winner, who died at age 73 in a car accident in California on April 23. Halberstam, the tall man with a conscience, was best known for his reports from the front lines of the civil rights movement, his coverage of the Vietnam War, and his books about the Kennedy Administration, the firemen of 9/11, and pro sports.
Writer Anna Quindlen instructed: “Most of us, when we take to the road and meet admiring strangers, vow afterward to answer the note pressed into our hands…. We need to be our best selves, but often we forget. David did it … the note, the call, the book, the advice…. [That’s] why each of us would do well, with all due respect to Jesus, to ask ourselves in these encounters, ‘What would David do?'”
Writer Gay Talese drew laughs from the crowd of more than a 1,000, saying, “If you had questions, he always had answers. He was a very knowing man, and all modesty aside, he knew it…. ‘Is Condoleezza Rice a better pianist than the secretary of state?’ He had the answer.”
John Lewis, the Georgia congressman who still bears scars in his skull from getting beaten as one of the Freedom Riders, said Halberstam, in covering the movement, “became one of us … He helped convince the nation that the cost of segregation was too high.” Absent the contribution of journalists like Halberstam, Lewis said, “the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings, and David helped us to fly so high. He was the brightest, and the best.”