Washington (CNN) -- The death of Ben Bradlee, the iconic editor of The Washington Post who oversaw the paper's coverage of the Watergate scandal and the Pentagon Papers, saddened the industry he influenced Tuesday night.
"Ben was a true friend and genius leader in journalism. He forever altered our business," the two reporters who broke the newspaper's Watergate stories, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, said in a statement.
"His one unbending principle was the quest for the truth and the necessity of that pursuit. He had the courage of an army," the two said. "Ben had an intuitive understanding of the history of our profession, its formative impact on him and all of us. But he was utterly liberated from that. He was an original who charted his own course. We loved him deeply, and he will never be forgotten or replaced in our lives."
Donald Graham, the newspaper's former publisher, called Bradlee "the best," and said "his drive to make the paper better still breathes in every corner of today's Post newsroom."
Though Bradlee left the newspaper more than 20 years ago, reporters who were hired by him remembered their interactions.
So sad to hear of passing of Ben Bradlee. One of the proudest moments in my life was being hired by Ben. There'll never be another like him.— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) October 22, 2014
Others recalled the words of Bradlee's colleagues, like former Post publisher Katherine Graham and Woodward and Bernstein. They called his death the end of an era for newspapers and journalism.
"So much of The Post is Ben," Mrs. Graham said in 1994, three years after Bradlee retired as editor. "He created it as we know it today."— Ed O'Keefe (@edatpost) October 21, 2014
Today's top political reporters pointed to Bradlee's influence.
The legendary Ben Bradlee has died, the Post reports tonight. RIP to a journalism giant. The word Icon is overused, but not in this case.— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) October 22, 2014
Even public relations professionals, like House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman, said Bradlee was a major figure in their career paths.
Reading Ben Bradlee's autobiography in college led me to pursue a career in journalism. (other things later led me out of that career)— Michael Steel (@michael_steel) October 22, 2014
C-SPAN and other reporters noted that President Barack Obama presented Bradlee with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Pres Obama recited poem on Bradlee by Sen Moynihan: "O rare Ben Bradlee/His reign has ceased/But his nation stands/Its strength increased."— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) October 22, 2014
"Ben Bradlee has made an indelible mark on history and on our profession," said current Post editor Martin Baron. "His spirit has been an inspiration to generations of journalists, demonstrating what our profession can achieve when it is led with courage and an unwavering commitment to truth. As we mourn his passing, we remain guided by the high standards he set in building one of the world's greatest newsrooms."