Ed Bradley, the veteran “60 Minutes” and CBS correspondent known for his tenacity and impressive body of work, died Thursday of leukemia, according to CBS News. He was only 65 years old.

Likely the country’s best-known African-American journalist, Bradley spent 26 years with the venerable newsmagazine, receiving a total of 19 Emmys and numerous awards and accolades.

Bradley’s long list of broadcasts, including the only television interview with condemned Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, gained him respect and admiration. One of his many Emmy Award–winning programs was a piece on Lena Horne, the African-American screen and stage legend.

Handsome, polite and dogged, Bradley stood out among other correspondents. He was respected by African-American viewers as one of the few network newsmen to include our cultural perspective.

Two years ago a Florida writer working on a story about Bradley’s powerful reporting on the government’s new investigation into the 1955 murder of Emmett Till asked Bradley if he ever went looking for stories on African-Americans.  Bradley said no but added that he wouldn’t let a good story pass his desk. And he didn’t.

Close friends say that Bradley’s death is still hard to grasp.

“We lost a great American. He was role model and trailblazer for all of us in media. I loved his style, his diamond stud, and his commitment to be the best,” said Ed Lewis, the chairman and founder of ESSENCE Magazine. “He was a dear friend. I have not stopped crying. His intelligence, his integrity, his fearlessness and competence was undeniable.”

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, a National Public  Radio correspondent and one of Bradley’s closest friends, was with him at the hospital during  his last hours.

“I was with him this morning when he took his last breath,” said Hunter-Gault, who along with her husband Ron flew from their home in South Africa to be with their friend.

“I’ve known him for forty years, and we have gone through some transitions,” Hunter-Gault said. “We knew each other when we were nobodies,” she recalled, laughing. “He was always working harder than anyone else, often producing more than anybody else. I used to tell him to slow down, especially when I knew he was not so well. He had this need to be excellent.”

While describing Bradley as a race man rooted in the Black community, Hunter-Gault said his work transcended race and ethnicity. “He was just a great journalist,” she said.

Steve Kroft, the 60 Minutesanchor, said Bradley would be deeply missed.

“I am devastated. I’ve known he was really sick for a week or so, but I didn’t expect it to come as quickly as it did. It’s gotten harder by the hour. When something like this happens, it takes a while to sink in,” he said, his voice breaking. “I really got to know him when I came to “60 Minutes seven years ago. Besides having an office next to each other, we both had houses in Long Island, and we spent time together during the weekends. I got to know his wife, Patricia. I had the privilege of meeting some of his friends. For someone so private, he had many, many friends.”

Additional reporting by Candice Frederick.