As we mourn the sudden passing of Andrew Breitbart we wanted to take time to reflect our thoughts and memories of him. Heritage’s Ed Feulner and Rob Bluey shared their thoughts and below are the memories of some Heritage staff members who had the opportunity to work with him to advance the conservative movement.

Ed Meese:  The death of Andrew Breitbart marks a great loss to the nation and particularly the Conservative movement. He was a bright star and leader in communicating a critical message concerning the future of the country. We will miss him but we are grateful for all he accomplished in his shortened life.

Mike Gonzalez: To me one of the most powerful things Andrew did—and the reason he got under the skin of liberals so—was to invade the left’s space. Until he arrived, progressives had thought investigative journalism was their domain and social media their play thing. Andrew turned their world upside down, helping to bring down ACORN and other sacred cows of the left.  He was also an intellectual prober—as when he rightly shined the spotlight on the Frankfurt school of Marxist academics who came here in mid-century with the express purpose of corrupting America from within. I had the honor of reviewing the book in which he exposed them, and hear him tell me about it months before, while he was conducting the research.  And Andrew fought his crusades without forgetting who mattered most, his wife and his four children. He died just after putting his children to bed. His death saddens me and many others, but also fills me with conviction. His friend Greg Gutfeld best expressed it this morning when he said, “He leaves a powerful legacy. He’s gonna be a legend.”

Ernest Istook:  When Andrew Breitbart discovered his passion, he pursued it relentlessly.  Simply put, he hated bullies and made it his mission to expose them, in particular the bullying tactics of the left.  He relished challenging political correctness.

Beneath his aggressive exterior, Breitbart cared deeply for his family and friends and sought to protect them from what liberal bullying is doing to America.  His loyalty was immense.

Andrew was just as open about himself as the openness he asked of others.  When I invited him to lecture in a study group I taught at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, he not only embraced the opportunity but spent many extra hours with the students, infusing them with his passion.

Andrew Breitbart was unselfish with his time and energy.  His example and his leadership will be missed.  As Breitbart’s legacy, he would expect us to be bold.

Brian Darling: I am deeply saddened at the passing of Andrew Breitbart.  I met him when he was in the initial stages of setting up his Big Government web site and I was later approved to be a blogger for it.  Over the years, I would see him at events and we would chat.  We had made plans late last year to get together to discuss ways to take the fight to the left.

I was a regular panelist on Fox Business’ Follow the Money with Eric Bolling.  Andrew was on the show in early December of last year and I sent him an E-Mail about his interview on the show.  As usual, Andrew was a great guest and was very excited to make points about the failed policy of bailing out private enterprise.  I shot him an E-Mail making fun of “Government Motors” – the topic of the segment.  Andrew responded with “see ya next time I get to DC.  We need to touch base, scheme a bit!”  Sadly that was the last communication I had with Andrew.  I missed him at CPAC inWashington,DC a few weeks ago and will forever be saddened that I did not have one last chance to run into him to say hello and scheme.

He shall be missed.

Rory Cooper:  One of the last times I saw Andrew Breitbart, he was charging into a ballroom at the Washington Marriott at CPAC wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and cape. He loved it. He was there to promote a new film exposing the Occupy movement, and ever the showman; he knew how to make a grand entrance. Every face in the room got the same mischievous smirk on it when they saw him, as if to collectively say ‘that’s our Andrew’.

Andrew’s courageous legacy will be infinite. He showed young activists and journalists that the mainstream media will ignore many stories unless you make the lack of coverage embarrassing in itself. Make a spectacle, put your integrity on the line, inspire others and demand an open and honest debate. And when the media still gets it wrong, compete with them. Build your own website, do your own investigating and seek to shine a brilliant light on the important issues of our day.

Many will hopefully carry his torch, but nobody will replace him. He was *the* muckraker of a generation. The cause of truth and justice has suffered a great loss. My family’s prayers are with his wife and children who mourn the loss of a compassionate father and husband, and his countless friends who mourn the loss of a great soul.

Todd Thurman: I had the privilege to speak on a panel with Andrew Breitbart at our annual Resource Bank conference in 2009. He was truly dedicated to the movement. It was a 3 hour panel on a Friday afternoon in Los Angeles. Instead of enjoying the weather outside, he was in a hotel room speaking to bloggers to advance the cause. During the discussion, I noticed him constantly looking at his phone. I asked him what was going on and he told me: He was checking his fantasy baseball team. Whatever he was involved in, whether it was baseball, music, or the conservative movement, he was passionate. His passion burned until the very end and he will be truly missed.

Ericka Andersen: Nearly four years ago, I read a profile piece on Andrew Breitbart in the New York Observer, calling him an “internet guru turned right wing messiah.”

I was enthralled by the energy of his quotes, they radiated off the page. This guy was fearless – completely unconcerned with offending anyone. I tracked down an email address and asked if I could interview him for a story, he responded within minutes “How about now?”, he asked.

In the next hour Brietbart answered every question about his personality and his activism with vigor and excitement. Thank god I was taping the conversation because he had a lot to say – really fast.

Little did I know, he’d soon be known by just about everyone. That inspiring energy I heard on the phone would be the first of many times that a hyperactive Breitbart would make me say, “Man, he’s good.” His passion and conviction were contagious. He moved fast but always apologized if he was wrong. In that interview four years ago, we discussed the dismissal of conservative beliefs in Hollywood. His disdain for big name Hollywood liberals was well known – and part of what fueled his drive to combat media bias.

“Everyone [in Hollywood] I meet makes me feel like I need to be louder more obnoxious to make sure their story is told so more people feel comfortable to come out of the woodwork,” Breitbart told me that day four years ago.

He always remembered me when I saw him after that interview, though I was usually one among many fighting a big crowd for a chance to say hello.

He was fighting for others, for liberty, for America. He did it with gusto and that big, vivacious personality will be sorely missed. Rest in Peace, Andrew.

Kate Nix: Coming to Heritage from one of the country’s most liberal college towns, I know it takes a lot of courage to stand up for your beliefs in the face of strong opposition. Andrew Breitbart was the poster child for fearlessness within the conservative movement, and was a great role model for myself and others who want to fight for what they believe in. The last time I encountered Breitbart in person, he was surrounded by young people, hearing and sharing ideas and encouraging everyone to make their voices heard. I hope his passion and unbreakable spirit will continue to inspire, shake things up, and advance the principles he fought for through those he leaves behind.

Bridgett Wagner: Andrew Breitbart had American Heart

Talk Radio host Bill Bennett has explained his own scrappy nature by explaining he is an Irishman.  He then tells the story of the Irishman who happens upon a fight, muscles his way into the middle and asks, “Is this a private fight, or can anyone join in?”  Fighting is just part of his nature you see.

With a name like Breitbart, you wouldn’t imagine he was Irish, but he was.  Adopted by a Jewish couple, Andrew grew up in the Westwood section of Los Angeles with an adopted Hispanic sister. He said he was a “default liberal” who grew up in West L.A. listening to alternative rock. He drank more than he studied in college and graduated with fewer skills than when he went in.  His ideological conversion began when his father cut off the funding of this life style, and Andrew had to get a real job. “I believe that walking for the first time in shoes that I bought, started … my path towards conservatism,” he told us during a Heritage talk in April 2011

Much like David Mamet, Dennis Miller, David Horowitz and other former liberals “mugged by reality”, Andrew said he was outraged by the hypocritical display of liberalism.

Those who only saw Andrew on FoxNews may assume that he was always outraged.  After all, much of what his websites Breitbart.com, BigGovernment, BigHollywood, BigJournalism, and BigPeace have uncovered is outrageous.

But, Andrew was also a great friend and inspiration to so many in the freedom movement – young investigative reporters, conservatives and libertarians in Hollywood, students on liberal campuses, Tea Party activists from every corner of the country, and all those who’ve decided they’re outraged too.

The first occasion I had to see Andrew in action over several days was at a Tea Party convention in Nashvillein early 2010. He was already a bit of a rock star in this community and swarmed by the media who had turned out in droves to hear Sarah Palin.  You could also find him in the middle of groups of tea partiers answering questions.  There were flag-wearing contingents who had arrived from the Midwest, couples who’d driven down from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, activists from California, Florida, and all points in between. They were all invigorated by their conversations with Andrew, and they told you about them. These were worried folks looking for answers to how we could turn our country around.  Andrew inspired. He assured them that these were not private fights in Washington, we were all supposed to join in.

One evening he introduced the packed Nashville ballroom to his good friend – “a great American patriot and a tea party attendee”  – singer Jon David who performed an original song that night. “American Heart” brought the crowd to cheers and tears.  Hearing the stunning news about Andrew’s passing this morning, I thought about this song and how the refrain summed up Andrew’s optimistic scrappy nature so well:

I’m American made
I’ve got American parts
I’ve got American faith
In America’s Heart
Go on raise a flag
Cause I got stars in my eyes
Oh, I’m in love with her
And, I won’t apologize

His memory will live on in those who have been inspired to join the fight. Andrew Breitbart, RIP

One of Andrew’s last tweets was a perfect of example of the way he lived his life:  “Apologize for WHAT?”

Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012)