December 30, 2022 |
Barbara Walters — the pioneering journalist who broke countless barriers in her 50-year career — died Friday. She was 93.
“Barbara Walters passed away peacefully in her home surrounded by loved ones. She lived her life with no regrets. She was a trailblazer not only for female journalists but for all women,” Cindi Berger, Walters’ rep, said in a statement to Page Six.
Robert Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, also confirmed the news, saying in his own statement, “I have sad news to share today. Barbara Walters passed away this evening at her home in New York.”
He called Walters a “true legend” and a “pioneer.”
Iger continued, “She was a one-of-a-kind reporter who landed many of the most important interviews of our time, from heads of state to the biggest celebrities and sports icons.
“I had the pleasure of calling Barbara a colleague for more than three decades, but more importantly, I was able to call her a dear friend. She will be missed by all of us at The Walt Disney Company, and we send our deepest condolences to her daughter, Jacqueline.”
On Sept. 25, 1929, Walters was born to Dena and Lou Walters, a nightclub owner, in Boston.
Walters’ rise to the top of journalism was decades in the making.
She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1953 and soon took a job writing for CBS’ morning program.
In 1974, she became the first woman to ever host NBC’s “Today” after more than a decade at the network. She started at the company as a researcher and writer, then steadily landed bigger and bigger stories including a traveling assignment with first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
Then in 1976, after building a huge following, she landed a $1 million contract with ABC to co-anchor “The Evening News.” Her seat at the desk made her the highest-paid TV journalist at the time and the first woman to ever anchor the evening news on a major network.
She began working as a correspondent for “20/20” in 1979 — ultimately becoming co-host alongside Hugh Downs in 1984. She remained a fixture on the late-night program for 25 years until she stepped down in 2004.
During her career, Walters earned numerous awards and accolades including four Emmys and one Lifetime Achievement award. She’s interviewed countless Hollywood icons, fascinating pop culture figures and every president since Richard Nixon, with the exception of Donald Trump.
But perhaps her most prized endeavor will always be “The View,” which launched in 1997. The morning talk show featured a diverse cast of voices sharing a roundtable discussion on politics, entertainment, family and other hot topics.
After sitting at the table for 17 years, Walters stepped down from the show in 2014 but remained an executive producer.
“I do not want to appear on another program or climb another mountain,” she told the Los Angeles Times of retiring. “I want to instead sit on a sunny field and admire the very gifted women — and OK, some men too — who will be taking my place.”
Following her retirement, Walters took a step back from the limelight and chose to live a more private life.
Walters was married four times. She was first married to Robert Henry Katz from 1955 to 1957. She later married Lee Guber from 1963 to 1976 and then Merv Adelson from 1981 to 1984 and again from 1986 to 1992.
“I don’t think that I was very good at marriage,” Walters explained in an ABC special about her life. “It may be that my career was just too important. It may have been that I was a difficult person to be married to, and I just seem to be better alone. I’m not lonely, I’m alone.”
Motherhood was also an obstacle for Walters, who with then-husband Guber, adopted a baby girl in 1968. They named her Jacqueline after Walters’ sister.
Walters admitted maintaining a healthy mother-daughter relationship wasn’t always easy as Jackie never wanted to be famous. She said the one regret she had in life was not spending more time with Jackie as a child.
“I was so busy with a career. It’s the age-old problem,” Walters said.
“And, you know, on your deathbed, are you going to say, ‘I wish I spent more time in the office?’ No. You’ll say, ‘I wish I spent more time with my family,’ and I do feel that way. I wish I had spent more time with my Jackie.”