Reaction to the death of Mike Wallace, "60 Minutes" icon and the last lion of American TV news, began pouring in this afternoon.
Wallace, 93, who had lived in a New Canaan, Conn. nursing home the past several years, had been suffering from dementia.
“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," said Leslie Moonves, president and CEO, CBS Corporation.
“All of us at CBS News and particularly at '60 Minutes' owe so much to Mike. Without him and his iconic style, there probably wouldn’t be a '60 Minutes.' There simply hasn’t been another broadcast journalist with that much talent. It almost didn’t matter what stories he was covering, you just wanted to hear what he would ask next. Around CBS he was the same infectious, funny and ferocious person as he was on TV. We loved him and we will miss him very much,” said Jeff Fager, chairman CBSNews and executive producer of "60 Minutes."
Lowell Bergman, the distinguished former "60 Minutes" producer so long associated with Wallace - with he whom he would share so many triumphs over the years before their breach over the tobacco-whistleblower story in the mid-90s - said in a phone interview, "You have to understand that I saw Mike Wallace on TV in 1957 when I was 11 years [old], and then going to work for him, with him, and hearing his voice doing the narration of a piece I was doing just completely changed the way I looked at myself, my career and my future, and all of us in the business.
"Long back before I ever worked with him, he created the tough broadcast interview," Bergman continued. "No one else had ever done it. And all the techniques we use in contstructing questions for whether it's a documentary or a magazine piece or anything - that was basically invented by him. He had an understanding which not all of us on camera have of production: He didn't just understand it intellectually but he understood how it all fit into whatever you needed to make a television story. So as a producer working with him, he more than any other person you would ever work with understood what you needed and he delivered it for you."
Bergman added that Wallace had enormous courage, and that "sometimes he went a little overboard with it, but his passing and [Walter] Cronkite's passing is the passing of an era."
Dan Rather, former anchor of the "CBS Evening News" and correspondent with "60 Minutes," said in a statement, "Mike Wallace was from the beginning and for many years, the heart and soul of '60 Minutes.' In that role he helped change American television news. Among the ways that this change was for the better: TV news became more investigative, more aggressive and relevant. Mike was sharp and quick of mind, a fierce competitor and a master interviewer."
Joe Peyronnin, a longtime CBS News producer and executive, as well as former CBS News vice president in charge of "60 Minutes" from '89 to '95, said in a phone interview that Wallace had mellowed in later years - he had, of course, the accurate reputation of being the most ferocious competitor at the most ferociously competitive news magazine on TV - but that his "take-no-prisoners approach" had long since influenced so many other journalists. "You have [Edward R. Murrow] and yoiu have [Walter Cronkite] but as an interviewer - as someone who will hold somewhat accountable, someone who will get the story - that was something that I've never seen anybody do in the history of television like Mike Wallace. He will stand forever in that regard."
In an online tribute to his longtime colleague, Morley Safer wrote: "It was 65 years from Mike's first appearance on camera - a World War II film for the Navy - to his last television appearance, a '60 Minutes' interview with Roger Clemens, the baseball star trying to fight off accusations of steroid use. 65 years! It's strange, but for such a tough guy, Mike's all-time favorite interview was the one with another legend, pianist Vladimir Horowitz. The two of them, forces of nature both: Sly, manic, egos rampant. For Mike - a red, white and blue kind of guy - Horowitz played "The Stars and Stripes Forever." It almost brought tears to the toughest guy on television. "
"Many people who weathered a Mike Wallace interview grew to respect him greatly and, you know, have great regard for him because I don't recall anybody ever saying to me, 'He took a cheap shot' or 'He did the obvious,' or that he was, you know, playing some kind of game," Fox News Channel Chairman Roger Ailes told the AP. "He actually was trying to serve the audience, and that's what made him great."
"Mike's energy and nerve paced everyone at Sixty Minutes. His was the defining spirit of the show. He bounded through the halls with joy at the prospect of the new, the true, the unexpected," said Diane Sawyer, his former colleague at "60," in a statement.
Myron Leon "Mike" Wallace was born in Brookline, Mass, later attending University of Michigan where he set his sights on a career in law - a goal quickly forgotten the minute he saw the school's broadcasting studio. After a stint in the Navy that began in 1943 - he was a communications officer aboard the USS Anthedon, a ship that tended subs - he returned stateside to Chicago where he began as an announcer on various radio serials, like "The Green Hornet," and even wrestling. There were later numerous hosting roles on game shows, and game show, and he even collected a number of bit acting parts; his first credited role in on a 1947 program was listed as "The Shy Guy."
Meanwhile, some additional details this extraordinary life, from CBS: "He made his network radio debut in 1940 at WXYZ in Detroit, where he was the narrator for “The Green Hornet” and a “Cunningham News Ace,” reading the news sponsored by the Cunningham Drug store chain. He soon moved to Chicago and, by 1941, Wallace was beginning to make a name for himself as a news writer and broadcaster on "The Air Edition of the Chicago Sun." He joined the U.S. Navy in 1943 and served aboard a submarine tender in the Pacific as a communications officer. In 1946, he returned to Chicago to resume his broadcasting career. There, on WMAQ radio, he hosted his first interview program, “Famous Names,” which led to a raft of broadcasting appearances, including his first network television appearance as the lead in a police drama, “Stand By For Crime.”
The 1949 show was the first to be transmitted from Chicago to the East Coast. Two years later,Wallace joined CBS in New York, where he lived ever since. Besides his Emmys, Wallace was the recipient of five DuPont-Columbia journalism and five Peabody Awards, and was the Paul White Award winner in 1993, the highest honor given by the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award grand prize and television first prize in 1996. In June of 1991, he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. Wallace authored several books, including: Mike Wallace Asks, a compilation of interviews from “Night Beat” and “The Mike Wallace Interview” published in 1958; his memoir, Close Encounter, co-authored with Gary Paul Gates, in 1984; and “Between You and Me,” also with Gates, in 2005.
Wallace is survived by his wife, the former Mary Yates, his son, Chris, a stepdaughter, Pauline Dora, two stepsons, Eames and Angus Yates, seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. At the family’s request, donations can be made in Wallace’s name to Waveny Care Center, 3 Farm Rd., New Canaan, Conn.
Some clips of one of the greatest newsmen in TV history....