Legendary New York City columnist Jimmy Breslin dies at 88.

Legendary New York City Columnist Jimmy Breslin Dies at 88

Legendary New York City Columnist Jimmy Breslin Dies at 88

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March 19 2017 3:31 PM

Legendary New York City Columnist Jimmy Breslin Dies at 88

jimmy_breslin_at_the_2008_brooklyn_book_festival_1
Jimmy Breslin speaks at the 2008 Brooklyn Book Festival.

David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons

Jimmy Breslin, the iconic columnist who became one of the best-known voices out of New York City, died on Sunday due to complications from pneumonia. He was 88. Through a career that spanned more than half a century, Breslin managed to create his own style that many later tried to copy (mostly unsuccessfully) in which the priority was the reader above else as he kept his prose simple yet funny. Breslin also wrote books but was best known for his stints in daily newspapers, including the Daily News and Newsday.

Breslin was working for the Daily News when he won the Pulitzer prize for commentary in 1986. "Jimmy Breslin was a furious, funny, outrageous and caring voice of the people who made newspaper writing into literature," Daily News Editor-in-Chief Arthur Browne said.

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Breslin was particularly well-known for his penchant to explore the issues of the day through common people. One of his best-known columns was about Clifton Pollard, the man who dug President John F. Kennedy’s grave. “One of the last to serve John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was the thirty-fifth President of this country, was a working man who earns $3.01 an hour and said it was an honor to dig the grave,” Breslin wrote in the piece that is still used in journalism schools as an example of how to find unique angles to cover a huge story. In another celebrated column, Breslin humanized the AIDS epidemic by focusing on one man, David Camacho.

Breslin was so well-known that even murderers sought him out. In the summer of 1977 Breslin was working for the Daily News the day he received a letter from “Son of Sam” serial killer David Berkowitz. "Hello from the gutters of N.Y.C. which are filled with dog manure, vomit, stale wine, urine and blood," it read. Breslin later said Berkowtiz was “the only killer I ever knew who knew how to use a semicolon.” (Shortly after his death, the Daily News posted summaries of some of Breslin’s best columns.)

Breslin also hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live in 1986.

"The sidewalks of NY have lost a great one, Jimmy Breslin. Long before 9/11, Jimmy was showing how great average New Yorkers are," Sen. Charles Schumer wrote on Twitter.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.