Anthony Shadid grew up in Oklahoma City, where his last name was pronounced Shah-ded and his father went by Buddy. By the time of his death Feb. 16 at 43, from an asthma attack on a smugglers’ trail leading out of Syria, he had become the most admired American journalist of his generation, treasured by readers and esteemed by colleagues for his lyrical illumination of Arab identity. He won two Pulitzer Prizes at the Washington Post for his coverage of Iraq and is nominated for another for bringing the Arab Spring to life in the pages of the New York Times. But Shadid’s glory was a transcendent humanity that made protagonists of the everyday Egyptians, Iraqis and Tunisians whose stories he presented as essential reading.
Fluent in Arabic, which he studied in Cairo, Shadid was driven by a nearly invisible ambition that generated excellence even as he threw off personal warmth. In the Post’s Baghdad bureau, writers tended to work in their rooms, batting away interruptions. Shadid kept his door open and, at the sound of an approaching visitor, swiveled in one fluid motion from his keyboard to exclaim, “Ustaz! Professor!” “The thing I like most about Arab culture,” he once said, “is that no one can enter a room without being acknowledged.” Pay attention. Everyone matters.
This text originally appeared in the Mar. 05, 2012 issue of TIME magazine.
Next Yitzhak Shamir