Iconic television pioneer Barbara Walters died December 30, 2022 in her New York City home at the age of 93.  Publicist Cindi Berger noted that Walters died “peacefully”.  Berger added that Walters “lived her life with no regrets.”

She parlayed a “token women’s job” at a television station into superstar status as the first female anchor, program creator and producer, and a household name; especially when it came to celebrity interviews.

Since the time the first television news cast went on the air, the news was delivered by men…that is until 1976 when Barbara Walters broke the barrier and not only became the first female national news anchor but earned a $1 million pay check in the process.

Creator of the all female talk show “The View” in 1997, Walters called its success, “the desert” of her long and distinguished career.  She hosted the show for many years that featured guest appearances by the great and the good where everything was on the table when it came to discussions.  She made her final appearance in 2014.

Speaking on her career in 2004, Walters said, “I never expected this!  I always thought I’d be a writer for television. I never even thought I’d be in front of a camera.”

In 1968 “60 Minutes” producer Don Hewitt called Walters, “a marvelous girl” and advised her not to go into television.  She noted, “I was the kind nobody thought could make it. I had a funny Boston accent. I couldn’t pronounce my R’s. I wasn’t a beauty.”  In 50 years of television, she never totally lost her native Boston accent.

Barbara Jill Walter was born September 25, 1929 in Boston, Massachusetts the daughter of a nightclub owner.   She was “rubbing elbows” with celebrities even as a little girl.

She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1943 with a degree in English.  She began her television career with a “temporary”behind the scenes assignment for “Today” in 1961 which led to the “token woman’s spot on the eight member writing staff.  It wasn’t long before she was making on air appearances; albeit non-essential filler spots.  She even went ‘undercover” for a story on Playboy bunnies.

He first interview was with Rose Kennedy following the assassination of son Robert Kennedy.  She followed it with interviews with Princess Grace of Monaco, President Nixon – even traveling to China with him, going to India for an interview with Jacqueline Kennedy, and to Iran to cover a gala party by the Sha of Iran.

In 1976, she left NBC for ABC, the news anchor job, and a $5 million contract.  But it was not all a basket of roses; she dealt with resentment form colleagues both for her celebrity status and salary; so much so, that she questioned moving from NBC to ABC.  That is until Roone Arledge arrived at ABC and put her onto the special projects that included the celebrity interview specials, stints on the news program 20/20, and the extremely popular “10 Most Fascinating People” specials.

Her list of celebrity interviews over the years grew to over 700 and included Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Moammar Gadhafi, Michael Jackson, Erik and Lyle Menendez, Monica Lewinsky, Katherine Hepburn, Ricky Martin, Oprah Winfrey, Sir Ringo Starr, Christopher Reeve, John Wayne, Ladybird Johnson and Sir Elton John.

Her list of accolades rivals those of many of those she interviewed including a Peabody Award, has been inducted into the Television Academy Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, has been honoured by the American Museum of the Moving Image and the Museum of Television and Radio, has earned Lifetime Achievement Awards from the International Women’s Media Foundation and the Women’s Project and Productions, has three Daytime Emmy Awards, and was presented with a GLAAD Media Award for reporting on transgender children.  Upon receiving the GLAAD Award she said, “You can forget all the Emmys. This means more to me.”  She was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has honourary doctorate degrees from Ohio State University, Temp University, Marymount College, Wheaton College, and Hofstra University.

When she retired from fulltime television and “The View” in 2014, Walters spoke on her career saying, “I hope that I will be remembered as a good and courageous journalist. I hope that some of my interviews, not created history, but were witness to history, although I know that title has been used. “I think that when I look at what I have done, I have a great sense of accomplishment. I don’t want to sound proud and haughty, but I think I’ve had just a wonderful career and I’m so thrilled that I have.”

Predeceased by her sister Jacqueline, Walters is survived by her daughter Jacqueline Danforth.

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