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.