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Holbrooke: 'Tougher The Characters, The More He Enjoyed The Challenge'

July 28, 2010: Richard Holbrooke arrives at a Congressional hearing.

July 28: Richard Holbrooke as he arrived for a Congressional hearing in Washington. Win McNamee/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Win McNamee/Getty Images

To Richard Holbrooke, who died yesterday at the age of 69, diplomacy was like jazz.

NPR's Tom Gjelten, who covered Holbrooke and his work in some of the world's hottest spots, reported on Morning Edition about the man who could be "a bully one day, a charmer the next ... improvising as necessary."

"The tougher the characters" who Holbrooke had to deal with, Tom says, "the more he enjoyed the challenge" — such as when he hammered out the 1995 "Dayton Accords" that ended the war in the Balkans.

He was famous for his temper, Tom reported, but Holbrooke said he knew when it wouldn't pay to flash his famous anger.

Here's Tom's report, which includes clips from his interviews of Holbrooke over the years:

NPR's Tom Gjelten on Richard Holbrooke

Holbrooke's most recent mission was as special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Washington Post reports that family members say Holbrooke's last words before heading into emergency heart surgery on Friday were "you've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."

Update at 10:20 a.m. ET: In an interesting sidenote to Holbrooke's death, retired Gen. Wesley Clark writes for Politico that "fifteen years ago today, the people of the Balkans chose peace over conflict and new beginnings over a troubled past. ... On Dec. 14, 1995, the presidents of Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia met in Paris to sign the Dayton Accords that marked the peace that endures today."

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