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David Broder 1929-2011

Chicago Daily Observer 10 March 2011 No Comment

From the Associated Press

David Salzer Broder was born in Chicago Heights, Ill., in 1929. He graduated from the University of Chicago and served in the Army from 1951 to 1953 before beginning his journalism career at the Bloomington (Ill.) Pantagraph. He worked for Congressional Quarterly and The Washington Star before joining The New York Times.

A fast-rising Times reporter, Broder surprised colleagues in 1966 by leaving after only 18 months. The paper’s often bureaucratic ways frustrated him. At an editor’s suggestion, he spelled out his grievances in a lengthy memo that made him a hero to many colleagues. It went down in Times lore as “the Broder memo.”

He then went to The Washington Post where he remained for over 40 years establishing himself as the dean of political journalists.

From Tom Roeser

David Broder was a journalist’s journalist whose gentlemanly personality endeared him to all—particularly me. I first met him in when I was the press secretary to the liberal Republican governor of Minnesota who was a firm ally of Nelson Rockefeller. In those halcyon days…before the rude division of social issues tore us apart…we were in the advance of the so-called left-wing of the Republican party: Rocky, Bill Scranton, Jack Javits, etc. When we sat down together I was impressed by his thorough, almost encyclopedic, knowledge of Minnesota and its political history…even though David, like me, was Illinois born and reared.

Later when I served as press secretary to one of the nation’s foremost experts on foreign affairs, Rep. Walter Judd (R-MN), the keynoter for the 1960 Republican convention and a strong contender for the vice presidential nomination with Richard Nixon I came into contact with him many times…although he was a little miffed at me when I denied him too-early access to the keynote speech text. But once again his questioning of Judd who had been a Mayo surgeon-missionary to China and one of the enduring experts on Far East policy showed David’s highly sophisticated erudition.

Still later when I became more conservative yet—one of several leaders of pro-life forces in Illinois and….a fascinating contradiction…a vice president of Quaker Oats which was more economically-rooted than socially…I met and shared information with Dave many times. We at Quaker invited him many times to speak to our new executives about the interaction of public and private interests and our responsibilities to both. I always was highly impressed with the great level of sophistication he possessed….this accompanied by a lively though quiet sense of humor and no talking-down from the standpoint of his superior accumulation of insights to his audiences.

One evening I will never forget occurred about 25 years ago when Dave came to town and….in an effort to glean information from many sides…invited Don Rose and I—with our guests—to dinner where the conversational exchange was pointed and delightful…sometimes cryptic. In all it was thoroughly one of the most memorable dinners I ever participated in. Don Rose in addition to all his other many talents is a gourmet, expert on food and a savvy reviewer of restaurants not just here but throughout the country. Dave had his own opinions and by the time the dinner was completed, Dave had a tremendous size-up from two I hope well-behaved but ardent disputants on political philosophy as well (from Don, not me) on the art of wine-tasting and appreciation of the cordon bleu arts.

The last time I saw David was at the Museum of Broadcast Communications tribute to Franklin Roosevelt a few years ago when he was a major speaker. Among his insights he pointed out that Roosevelt’s accent…speaking intonation…was not just Eastern nor Brahmin but something in between…was duplicated only by the never duplicated tones of Katherine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post. Fascinating. I had never thought of that before.

While David worked for one of the great liberal newspapers…The Washington Post…I always knew that he was far less ideological than his newspaper: more appreciative, for example, of the great contribution Richard Nixon—this paper’s bête noire—made to foreign policy by splitting the Soviet-Sino alliance—than Watergate for which Nixon paid too dear a price not by doing anything but by in a moment of outrage recorded on magnetic tape he said.

I suppose if you look at a list of scoops Dave had, they were not that many…but his value was to impart a brilliant civility and analysis to stories that—sadly—has not been equaled. Very high up in my list of his virtues was something I seldom detected in other high-pressure political journalists—an endearing sense of humility. A longtime wire service reporter who many years ago gloried in his ability to drink hugely after lunch and return to write colorful stories unencumbered by his alcoholic burden once stunned us when we were in David’s company by slurring: Broder…I can write better drunk than you can sober!

David thought that so funny he used it for years afterward. The guy was wrong but it is a measure of Broder’s self-confidence and comfort with himself that he treasured it as a corrective to keep his ego in check.

I think it’s fair to say there is not on hand another David Broder nor until big time newspapers start hiring blemish-free saints will there ever be.

From Bill Flick in The Bloomington Pantagraph

For Broder, it began at this newspaper, back in the 1950s, reportedly earning him $65 a week — before taxes.

His son was born at Brokaw Hospital (today’s Advocate BroMenn Medical Center).

He and wife, Ann, lived near Franklin Park.

By the 1960s, he moved on, first to Congressional Quarterly and then The Washington Post, where his weekly column became a bible for every president from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama.

But, even if he was a newspaper superstar, he seemed to never forget his start.

Over his 60 years as a front-line-but-in-the-back-row journalist, he’d occasionally be seen, every few years, at Lucca Grill downtown.

As they will tell you, he didn’t come with bravado.

Instead, he simply asked for a table, the Baldini special and an iced tea with a lemon slice.

When then-presidential candidate Ronald Reagan visited Bloomington-Normal in 1980 to be grand marshal of the Illinois State University homecoming parade, suddenly out of the media pool popped Broder, not to get closer to Reagan but instead to quickly stride to the steps near Hovey Hall.

“He came right over to us, just to say hello, as if the years had never passed,” remembers Rich Godfrey, then an ISU media relations head, mayor of Normal and alumnus of this newspaper. Godfrey says he worked one summer side by side with Broder, driving from Minonk to DeLand to visit The Pantagraph’s “state reporters,” who at that time usually were older women who were either farmer’s wives or the town gadflies.

“Dave was genuinely nice, quiet, patient,” says Godfrey, “a very thoughtful person.”

From Sen. Adlai Stevenson III

David Broder was old school, perhaps reflecting his earlly experience in a civil environment. He took an active interest in public policy and politics – which went beyond reporting and commenting. He was not infallible but he was incorruptible and non ideological. He came to the opening event for the Adlai Stevenson Center and seemed to enjoy it. He will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him and appreciates professional journalism.

From George Spray, former Head of Photography for the Bloomington Pantagraph

Dave and I were in the newsroom together for about a year. I joined the staff in 1954 and remember him as a kind journalist and equally, a gentlemen. I remember the day he left the newsroom for Washington, the newsroom crew gathered around as he was presented with a leather briefcase.  Every time I saw or read Dave Broder, I could say, “I Knew Him”, and be proud of the work of the Pantagraph in the 1950’s.

image the US Flag flies at half-mast for David Broder, a US Army Veteran

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