The country learned on the CBS program Sunday Morning that legendary 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace had died Saturday night in New Haven, Connecticut at the age of 93. He had been in ill health in recent years.
"Legendary" may be a term over-utilized when describing some folks, but not Wallace, whose career lasted more than 60 years, and included stints as a radio announcer, a radio actor, television actor and game show host — all before he got into hard news in the 1950s.
But his career took off nationally at the age of 50 when he became the lead reporter for 60 Minutes, which debuted in 1968 and remains one of the most popular programs on broadcast television some 42 years later.
Wallace retired in 2006 at the age of 87, but he returned two years later for a final interview in January of 2008 with baseball pitcher Roger Clemens, accused the month before in the Mitchell Report of using anabolic steroids.
Wallace became famous in the ’70s and ’80s for his interviews, especially in busting the high and mighty, sometimes using what became known as "ambush" cameras.
One dark point in his career was the whole issue with Jeffrey Wigand, a whistle-blower trying to expose Brown & Williamson's dangerous business practices in the tobacco industry in the mid-’90s. That story later became the 1999 film The Insider (where he was played by Christopher Plummer). He did not come out looking good in that saga.
He was "old school" in every sense of the term, including working with women. In 1991 reporter Mark Hertsgaard wrote an article for Rolling Stone about Wallace's boss and good friend, former longtime 60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt. Wallace was singled out in the piece "for bottom slapping, lewd comments and unsnapping co-workers' bras," as Salon.com wrote in the late 1990s.
Wallace's list of classic interviews predated 60 Minutes, such as his 1964 conversation with Malcolm X shortly before he was assassinated: