One year ago today, my friend and former publisher Andrew Breitbart died unexpectedly of a heart attack in Los Angeles.
Although Andrew had not yet become a household name across America, he was a legend within the conservative community and the living embodiment of a journalistic warrior who fought against intellectual dishonesty in the media.
An instrumental part of The Huffington Post before it turned to the left, co-editor of the Drudge Report, commentator for The Washington Times and publisher of Breitbart News, Andrew left an indelible mark within the world of online media, inspiring regular Americans to become "citizen journalists" from their homes.
Andrew did memorable investigative stories in an era when real journalism had faltered. He demonstrated courage by featuring James O'Keefe's famous undercover sting against the community activist organization ACORN. He took Rep. Anthony D. Weiner to task after the congressman exposed himself on Twitter -- even hijacking the congressman's news conference. He also called out former Obama official Shirley Sherrod for politically charged comments that led to her resignation.
Most importantly, Andrew reminded America that it was not racist to criticize President Obama and accurately termed political correctness "cultural Marxism."
I first encountered Andrew shortly after Mr. Obama was elected in late 2008, when I was a criminal prosecutor representing the District of Columbia. He contacted me about a Wall Street Journal piece I had written defending President George W. Bush. Andrew had written a similar piece in The Washington Times and told me that we should coordinate our efforts to defend Mr. Bush because so many conservatives had abandoned him.
Andrew was never afraid to champion a person or a cause that others were afraid to stand by.
Not surprisingly, a few weeks later Andrew arranged for both of us to personally meet Mr. Bush in Texas, and we founded a project to help restore his legacy against the left-wing media. It didn't take long for me to realize that history was drawn to Andrew and, like magic, amazing things happened around him.
People who knew Andrew, especially those who worked with him, thought of him as I did -- an older brother who offered inspiration, advice, encouragement and insight. He treated those around him like intellectual equals even though his brilliance far exceeded our own.
Perhaps the most transparent trait about Andrew was that he had a heart of gold. Despite the left's accusations that he was a bully, he was anything but. Andrew hated bullying and made it a lifelong mission to stand up to bullies. What Andrew really did was give bullies a taste of their own medicine by standing up to them in the brashest, boldest way imaginable, oftentimes scaring the living daylights out of them with his bizarre antics and wild sense of humor.
Shortly before he died, Andrew took his brash boldness to a new level when he dared to walk outside the Conservative Political Action Conference last year and confront an angry mob of Occupy protesters. The protesters were trespassing on hotel property and gradually descending toward the conference entrance in an attempt to intimidate conservatives.
While most people were making sure to stay inside, Andrew walked outside and began shouting at the Occupiers, "Behave yourselves stop raping people!"
No one could get the better of Andrew because he was smart enough not to take himself too seriously. He obsessively re-tweeted every negative comment made about him on Twitter, demonstrating just how important a target he'd become to the left. When all else failed, Andrew could do something very few people in politics could do genuinely: He made people laugh.
That was because Andrew was genuinely a happy person who loved people. Despite how famous he had become, Andrew never acted like he was anything other than a regular guy who just loved America.
And Andrew did love America.
That was what drove him -- a passionate love for freedom, individualism and truth. Despite how much the left had popularized criticizing the United States and all of its greatness, Andrew made no apologies for capitalism and free enterprise.
Andrew Breitbart was the living spirit of what is missing in the conservative movement today -- fearlessness to defend the true ideals of what our country really stands for. He was and will always remain a true American hero.
He should not be forgotten.
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is a lawyer and journalist who previously worked with Andrew Breitbart.