Friday, August 23, 2013

Remembering Mike Wallace May 9, 1918 - April 7, 2012

If I were a public figure, one of the last persons I would want to be interviewed by would be Mike Wallace ( of 60 Minutes fame).  He was a man who wasn't afraid to ask the "tough questions."

Myron Leon Wallik was born in Brookline, Massachusetts to Russian Jewish immigrants.  His dad was both a grocer and an insurance broker.  After graduating from high school, Mike entered the University of Michigan.  While attending the university, he was a reporter for the Michigan Daily.  During his final year in Michigan, he was a guest on a popular radio quiz show "Information Please" and began working for the radio as a newscaster and writer for a station in Grand Rapids.  He soon moved on to Detroit as an announcer and then moved to Chicago, Illinois.

He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1943 where he was a communications officer during World War II aboard the USS Anthedon ( a submarine tender).  Although he never saw combat, he had the opportunity to travel the world until he was honorably discharged in 46.   He continued his radio career with the task of announcing radio shows including the then popular "Sky King" "The Green Hornet" and The Spike Jones" show and others.    He also announced professional wrestling in Chicago.

In the late 1940's, Wallace took a job with CBS  as a staff announcer.  He even did commercials on the Groucho Marx "You Bet Your Life" and was the character Myron Wallace on the radio drama "Crime on the Waterfront"

He would soon move to television where he hosted game shows.

He got his first dose of news reporting in 1957 on "Night Beat" that was renamed "The Mike Wallace Interview."

He became the lead reporter of 60 Minutes and over the years he had numerous run ins with some of the people being interviewed.  Among them included Louis Farrakhan and Nigeria and Gen. William Westmoreland and Vietnam.  He worked for 60 Minutes for 37 years and announced his retirement on March 14, 2006.  He continued with CBS News as a "Correspondent Emeritus" but was not required to work the long and gruesome hours as he had done the past 37 years.  His final interview was with baseball star Roger Clemens and it was during that time that Wallace's health began to fail.

On a personal level, Wallace unknowingly suffered from bouts of depression.  His life had its fill of tragedy having had a younger son, Peter, die in a mountain-climbing accident.  He classified himself as a "political moderate".  Richard Nixon wanted Wallace as his press secretary during the Nixon administration.

Mike Wallace memorial service
Over Mike Wallace's career, he earned 21 Emmy Awards including his reporting of the 911 terrorist attacks.  He also won three George Peabody Awards and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.

Mike Wallace died in his home in New Canaan, Connecticut on April 7, 2012 at the age of 93.
Mike Wallace Remembrance Program

A Remembrance of Mike Wallace was held on May 1, 2012 in the Frederick P. Rose Hall at the Lincoln Center in New York City (program pictured).  Among those who honored him were his 60 Minutes colleagues Steve Kroft and Morley Safer.  His son, Chris, who followed in his father's footsteps also spoke of his life.  Scenes from his interviews were injected in the service and his toughness and hard-nosed reporting were humorously discussed by his family, friends, and associates.
Graveside at West Chop Cemetery

Memorial card
Mike was cremated and laid to rest in the West Chop Cemetery in Tisbury, Massachusetts at a private graveside service.

A quote from Mike Wallace that appeared on the back of his remembrance program

"It's the story.  It is the feeling that you really make a little bit of difference.  You're doing something useful...helped somebody out of some trouble, you've righted a wrong, you've exposed something worth exposing."

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