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April 08, 2012

CBS News Titan Mike Wallace Dies

Wallace, who earned a reputation as a challenging interviewer, spent 38 seasons with 60 Minutes and is remembered for sit-downs with world leaders and controversial figures from all walks of life.

Mike Wallace, the renowned broadcast journalist who spent more than five decades at CBS News, including 38 seasons with the long-running newsmagazine 60 Minutes, died April 7, 2012, at a care facility in New Canaan, Connecticut. He was 93.

According to news reports, Wallace had been in declining health in recent years but a cause of death was not released upon the announcement of his passing.

In a statement posted on the CBS News website, CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves said, “It is with tremendous sadness that we mark the passing of Mike Wallace. His extraordinary contribution as a broadcaster is immeasurable and he has been a force within the television industry throughout its existence. His loss will be felt by all of us at CBS.”

When executive producer Don Hewitt was developing 60 Minutes, Wallace was his first hire. During his tenure with the Sunday-night show, which premiered in 1968, Wallace delivered some of its most memorable and hard-hitting interviews, including sit-downs with global political figures, celebrities, athletes and many others. Among them were seven U. S. presidents, as well as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, John Ehrlichman, G. Gordon Liddy and H.R. Haldeman, Barbra Streisand, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Jose Canseco, Yasser Arafat, Vladimir Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

His 1995 interview whistle-blowing tobacco executive Jeffrey Wigand inspired the acclaimed 1999 movie The Insider.

Wallace endured controversy himself when Gen. William C. Westmoreland filed a libel lawsuit against him, seeking $120 million for a 1982 CBS Reports documentary, The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception, which reported that Westmoreland and others deliberately underestimated enemy troop strength during the Vietnam War.

Westmoreland dropped the legal action in 1985 after a long trial. Wallace later said he suffered from depression as a result of the experience.

Wallace announced his retirement in 2006, but remained a correspondent emeritus. He made his final television appearance in 2008, an interview with baseball pitcher Roger Clemens, who had been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. Like many other Wallace interviews, it made national headlines.

He was born Myron Wallace on May 9, 1918, in Brookline, Massachusetts. In 1939, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from the University of Michigan.

Wallace began his journalism in the 1940s as a radio news writer for the Chicago Sun and then as a reporter for station WMAQ.

His first stint at CBS News began in 1951. He left in 1955, and during the ’50s he also worked as an announcer and game show host for programs such as What’s in a Word?, and acted in a 1954 Broadway play, Reclining Figure. He first drew attention with Night Beat, a series of one-on-one interviews with public figures that began on a local station in New York and eventually moved to ABC. In 1957 he appeared in the motion picture drama A Face in the Crowd, starring Andy Griffith.

Wallace returned to CBS in 1963, and remained a newsman from then on. His decision to devote himself to serious subject was reported to have been influenced by the death of his 19-year-old son, Peter, in an accident in 1962.

Another son, Chris, is also a broadcast journalist — he worked for many years at NBC and ABC, and since 2003 has worked at the cable network Fox News, where he hosts Fox News Sunday.

His many professional honors included 21 Emmy Awards, five DuPont-Columbia journalism awards and five Peabody awards.

In addition to his television career, Wallace wrote a number of books, including Between You and Me, with Gary Paul Gates, and Heat and Light: Advice for the Next Generation of Journalists, with Fordham University journalism professor Beth Knobel.

Wallace is survived by his fourth wife, Mary Yates Wallace, whom he married in 1986, as well as his son, Chris, a stepdaughter, Pauline Dora, and stepsons Eames and Angus Yates.

Mike Wallace had the distinction of being interviewed by the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television.

During the three-hour interview conducted in New York City on April 17, 1998, by Steve McClellan, Wallace talked about his early radio work, television’s Mike and Buff, The Mike Wallace Interviews and reporting the 1960 presidential election coverage. Then, in 1963, he became a news correspondent at CBS, which led to his legendary position on 60 Minutes.

The entire interview is available here.

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