Memorial flowers were placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame star of legendary journalist Barbara Walters today, one day after the death of the TV broadcast pioneer who interviewed many of the biggest names of our time during a roughly five-decade career.
Walters — a staple on ABC on shows including “20/20” and “The View,” which she co-founded — died Friday in New York at age 93, the network announced.
“Barbara was a true legend, a pioneer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself,” Bob Iger, CEO of the Burbank-based Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC, said in a statement. “She was a one-of-a-kind reporter who landed many of the most important interviews of our time, from heads of state and leaders of regimes to the biggest celebrities and sports icons. … She will be missed by all of us at The Walt Disney Company, and we send our deepest condolences to her daughter, Jacqueline.”
Walters had been largely out of the public eye in recent years. She stepped down as a co-host of “The View” in 2014, but continued to work on the program. ABC noted that upon her departure as a co-host, she said, “I do not want to appear on another program or climb another mountain. I want instead to sit on a sunny field and admire the very gifted women — and OK, some men too – who will be taking my place.”
Born Sept. 25, 1931, in Boston and raised in New York City and Miami Beach, Walters began her broadcasting career as a producer with WNBC-TV in New York City, then became a writer for CBS News.
She joined NBC’s “Today” show as a writer and researcher in 1961. Within a year, she became a reporter at large. She became the show’s first female co-host in 1963, but didn’t officially get the title until 1974.
In 1976, Walters signed a contract paying her a record $1 million a year to become an anchor of the “ABC Evening News,” the first woman to anchor a nightly network newscast. After two years of continued low ratings, Walters was dropped as the anchor.
In 1979, Walters joined her former “Today” show colleague Hugh Downs as a host of the primetime news magazine “20/20,” a post she would keep until 2004.
Walters was credited with interviewing more leaders and entertainers than anyone else in broadcast history, including every U.S. president and first lady from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama.
She won 12 Emmy Awards during her career and was known for landing
interviews that eluded many other journalists. Most notably, in 1977 she arranged for the first joint interview of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, which helped lead to a peace treaty between the two nations.
Walters also has the distinction of being responsible for the highest-rated news program broadcast by a single network, a 1999 interview with Clinton White House staff member Monica Lewinsky, seen by 74 million viewers.
She was also known for her “Barbara Walters Specials,” and annual pre-Oscar and “The 10 Most Fascinating People” specials.
Walters received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007, at 6801 Hollywood Blvd.
Longtime CBS news anchor Dan Rather added his tribute on Twitter.
“The world of journalism has lost a pillar of professionalism, courage, and integrity,” Rather said. “Barbara Walters was a trailblazer and a true pro. She outworked, out-thought, and out-hustled her competitors. She left the world the better for it. She will be deeply missed. RIP.”
People who were interviewed by Walters also added their thoughts.
“Barbara Walters never flinched when questioning the world’s most powerful people,” basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said on his Twitter page. “She held them accountable. She cared about the truth and she made us care too. Fortunately, she inspired many other journalists to be just as unrelenting. We are all better off because of her.”
Walters is survived by her daughter, Jacqueline Dena Guber.