According to The Hollywood Reporter, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and author Jimmy Breslin has died of complications from pneumonia. He was 88.
Breslin was best known for the way he’d highlight the stories of “regular,” working-class New Yorkers who would otherwise fade into the background of bigger news events. He covered the AIDS epidemic in the ‘80s by telling the story of one man dying of the disease, for example, and he wrote about the death of John Lennon from the perspective of a cop on duty that night who happened to be a lifelong Beatles fan. One of his most famous pieces was a 1963 profile of Clifton Pollard, the man tasked with digging John F. Kennedy’s grave on the morning of his funeral.
Breslin was born in Queens in 1928, and his early columns were based on stories he’d pick up from people in bars. As his reputation grew, he hopped around the various New York-based newspapers and tabloids, including The Daily News, New York Magazine, Newsday, and the long-defunct The New York Journal-American. By the ‘70s, Breslin’s columns were so popular that he could count David Berkowitz—Son Of Sam himself—as one of his fans, with Berkowitz even mailing letters directly to Breslin while still terrorizing the city.
Fame and accolades aside, Breslin was also an occasionally controversial figure. He had a penchant for self-promotion and would freely admit to betraying the trust of friends if it meant landing a big story. He also went on a racist tirade against a Korean-American colleague in the ‘90s after she said one of his stories was sexist, prompting him to eventually issue an apology that said, “I am no good, and once again I can prove it.”
Breslin was also an accomplished author, writing The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, Damon Runyon: A Life, and I Want To Thank My Brain For Remember Me. Over at the Daily News website, the paper has posted a short retrospective on some of Breslin’s most important and memorable columns.