Mike Wallace Dies: '60 Minutes' Correspondent

Mike Wallace Dies: '60 Minutes' Correspondent Was 93

Veteran broadcast journalist Mike Wallace has died, according to CBS News.

He was 93 years old and had been in declining health in recent years. A cause of death has not been released yet.

Wallace was a correspondent on the CBS News program "60 Minutes," since its premiere in 1968 where he earned a reputation as one of the toughest interviewers in the business.

He spent 38 seasons with the program before announcing his retirement in 2006.

But Wallace remained as correspondent emeritus with the program and still occasionally contributed to the news magazine and CBS News platforms after the 2005-06 season, according to his official CBS News biography.

When he announced his retirement, Wallace told CBS News' Bob Schieffer that the job has been a quite a journey.

"To go around the world, to talk to almost anybody you want to talk to, to have enough time on the air, so that you could really tell a full story," Wallace said. "What a voyage of discovery it was."

Over the years, Wallace sat down with seven U.S. Presidents as well as other world leaders, celebrities, sports stars, and controversial figures like Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Jose Canseco, Yasir Arafat and Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

His investigative reporting in the 1990's revealed the secrets of the tobacco industry and inspired the Hollywood movie, "The Insider."

Wallace also made his name as a war correspondent in the 1960's, covering Vietnam.

He started his journalism career in the 1940s as a radio news writer and broadcaster for Chicago Sun.

He joined CBS News in 1951 and later returned to the network in 1963 after leaving in 1955.

During his remarkable career, he won more than 20 Emmy Awards and several other honors.

He also wrote several books including "Between You and Me," with Gary Paul Gates and "Heat and Light: Advice for the Next Generation of Journalists" in collaboration with Fordham University journalism professor Beth Knobel.

ABC News President Ben Sherwood said Wallace was "an intrepid journalist who used the medium of television to powerful ends. A pioneer of broadcasting and network news, Mike was there at the creation."

"Every Sunday night America tuned in to see what questions he would ask and who would be exposed to his hard charging quest for the truth. Mike's tough questioning inspired generations of journalists. Our thoughts are with our former colleague Chris and his entire family," Sherwood said in a statement.

Mike Wallace in his CBS office in 2006.Bebeto Matthews/Associated PressMike Wallace in his CBS office in 2006.

11:10 a.m. | Updated Mike Wallace, a pioneer of American broadcasting who confronted leaders and liars for the newsmagazine “60 Minutes” for four decades, has died, CBS News said Sunday morning. He was 93.

CBS said in a statement that he died on Saturday night at Waveny Care Center in New Canaan, Conn. The cause of death was not released. “His family was with him,” the CBS anchor Bob Schieffer said on “Face the Nation” shortly after Mr. Wallace’s death was announced on television.

“It is with tremendous sadness that we mark the passing of Mike Wallace,” Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS Corporation, said in a statement. “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.”

As one of the original correspondents and hosts of “60 Minutes,” which was started in 1968, Mr. Wallace helped to establish the television newsmagazine format. “Without him and his iconic style, there probably wouldn’t be a ’60 Minutes,’” said Jeff Fager, the executive producer of the program.

A staple of Sunday nights for many families, the newsmagazine is now the most popular such program on American television. CBS said that it would dedicate a special edition of “60 Minutes” to Mr. Wallace on April 15.

Mr. Wallace was perhaps best known for ambush interviews of crooks and cheats. Mr. Wallace “invented a new paradigm for television news, creating a signature technique that would become a standard in the industry,” the biographer Peter Rader writes in a new book, “Mike Wallace: A Life.”

In an essay for CBS News, Morley Safer, a “60 Minutes” correspondent, recounted his colleague’s career thusly:

Wallace took to heart the old reporter’s pledge to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. He characterized himself as “nosy and insistent.”

So insistent, there were very few 20th century icons who didn’t submit to a Mike Wallace interview. He lectured Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, on corruption. He lectured Yassir Arafat on violence.

He asked the Ayatollah Khoumeini if he were crazy.

He traveled with Martin Luther King (whom Wallace called his hero). He grappled with Louis Farrakhan.

And he interviewed Malcolm X shortly before his assassination.

Mr. Wallace entered semi-retirement in 2006, but returned to “60 Minutes” for interviews with Mitt Romney, Jack Kevorkian and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He last appeared on “60 Minutes” in January 2008, when he had an exclusive interview with Roger Clemens, a baseball legend who had been accused of steroid use.

Weeks after the interview was shown, Mr. Wallace underwent a triple bypass surgery.

Mr. Wallace was noticeably absent in January when CBS held a memorial service for another legendary “60 Minutes” figure, Andy Rooney, who died in November at age 92.

In a recent interview, Mr. Wallace’s son Chris, who is the anchor of “Fox News Sunday” on Fox, said that his father “is 93 and showing it for the first time.”

“He’s in a facility in Connecticut. Physically, he’s okay. Mentally, he’s not,” Chris Wallace said. “He still recognizes me and knows who I am, but he’s uneven. The interesting thing is, he never mentions ’60 Minutes.’ It’s as if it didn’t exist. It’s as if that part of his memory is completely gone. The only thing he really talks about is family — me, my kids, my grandkids, his great-grandchildren. There’s a lesson there. This is a man who had a fabulous career and for whom work always came first. Now he can’t even remember it.”

In interviews after he retired, Mike Wallace said he would want his epitaph to read, “Tough But Fair.”

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Comment by Jacqueline Keller on April 8, 2012 at 12:21pm

Makes you think - what would you like your epitaph to read? Anyone?

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