He was simply one of the best. Howard Brodie was a master of his craft, an artist who drew images of World War II for the US Army and hundreds of courtroom sketches, including Charles Manson and Patricia Hearst among so many other high profile trials, for CBS News. He was a teacher, mentor and friend.
I first met Howard Brodie when an editor at the CBS News Los Angeles bureau in 1976. By then he was already a legend – one could tell because even the best and most experienced cameraman spoke enviously of what Howard captured with his eye and fingers. They would wait, anxiously, as Howard finished his sketches and they would ask how he wanted them shot – with a push in here? A tilt down there? Senior correspondents like the late Terry Drinkwater and producers including David Browning would eye each drawing appreciatively and adjust their scripts for that evening’s CBS Cronkite newscast.
One particularly busy day Howard rushed in from court and courteously, but leaving no doubt to the urgency of his question, asked if I would stand at my desk and stretch my left arm outward… “Freeze!” he asked, even as phones rang off their hooks around me. He needed to capture the muscle tone of an arm in that position; he had seen it in the court but needed the complexity of the muscles and tendons to finish it. I was his proxy. It took all of 20 seconds.
I knew then I had become a (very small) part of Howard Brodie’s art. I hardly remember the case but I always remembered the man – his presence was powerful, his courtesy was never failing, his laugh could punctuate a newsroom, his art simply powerful and stunning. He captured moments- as a reporter and artist – and created signature moments of trials of the century.