Journalist, author, and historian David Halberstam died Monday, April 23, in a three car automobile collision in Menlo Park, Calif., near Dumbarton Bridge, south of San Francisco. He had just turned 73 on April 10.
Born in New York City, his father was a surgeon and his mother, a teacher. Halberstam grew up on military posts while his father was in the Army, as well as in Connecticut. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in Yonkers, N.Y.
Halbertsam was a frequent guest at the Sun Valley Writer's Conference, held annually in Sun Valley.
"When the Sun Valley Writers' Conference was not much more than a gleam in its founders' eyes, veteran journalists and authors Karl and Anne Taylor Fleming prevailed upon their close friend David Halberstam to give the opening talk of the first event in 1995," said Reva Tooley, executive director of the Sun Valley Writer's Conference. "For the next decade, this Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist participated in the conference and in the community. He loved Sun Valley, and Sun Valley loved him. Opinionated, iconoclastic, funny, intelligent, charming, vital, strong. Throughout his career, in good times and bad, he was always a truth-teller. We join the rest of the country in mourning his loss."
A graduate of Harvard University, Halberstam was the managing editor of the student newspaper, the Crimson. His first newspaper job was at the Daily Times Leader in West Point, Miss., where he received recognition for his coverage of the growing civil rights movement. Later, he joined the Tennessean in Nashville, and in 1960 moved on to the Washington bureau of the New York Times. Later, he covered conflicts in the Congo and in Vietnam, where his work was rewarded with a Pulitzer Prize in 1964.According to his wife, Jean Halberstam, he was being driven by a journalism school student to an interview with Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle when the accident occurred. Halberstam was working on a new book, "The Game," about the 1958 NFL championship game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants. He had just finished his 21st book, "The Coldest Winter," a history of the Korean War.
His books include "The Best and the Brightest" (1972), "The Powers That Be" (1979), "Summer of '49" (1991) "The Fifties" (1993), "October 1964" (1994), "The Children" (1999), "Firehouse" (2002), "The Teammates" (2003) and "The Education of a Coach" (2005).
His colleagues remember Halberstam as a groundbreaking writer never afraid to present hard facts. In the Wood River Valley his loss is felt deeply by those who admired his work as well as those who worked with him at the Sun Valley Writer's Conference.
"He was such a big part of who we are," said Robin Eidsmo, director of the Sun Valley Writer's Conference.
Sarah Hedrick and Gary Hunt, owners of Iconoclast Books, which operate the onsite bookstore at the conferences, remember his sweetness with one of their children.
"Tilly was just 2 years old, wallowing around in the grass behind the counter, and sleeping under the table. Once when I put her on a blanket I came in and he (Halberstam) was on his stomach and tickling her with a blade of grass. She was giggling in her sleep. He was enchanted with her and so sweet, spending time with her. When he came back he always sought her out and carried her around on his hip," Hedrick said.
"He was such a seminal journalist," Hunt said. "One of the guys from the Vietnam era, and so prolific. He wrote so many great books. They read so easily like novels. He was classy."