The pioneering TV news broadcaster was the first female anchor in evening news.
Barbara Walters, the trailblazing television news broadcaster and longtime ABC News anchor and correspondent who shattered the glass ceiling and became a dominant force in an industry once dominated by men, died Friday. She was 93.
Bob Iger, the CEO of The Walt Disney Company which is the parent company of ABC News, praised Walters as someone who broke down barriers.
“Barbara was a true legend, a pioneer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself. 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,” Iger said in a statement Friday.
In a career that spanned five decades, Walters won 12 Emmy awards, 11 of those while at ABC News. She made her final appearance as a co-host of “The View” in 2014, but remained an executive producer of the show and continued to do some interviews and specials for ABC News.
“I do not want to appear on another program or climb another mountain,” she said at the time. “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.”
Barbara Jill Walters was born in Boston on Sept. 25, 1929, to Dena and Louis “Lou” Walters. Her father worked in show business as a booking agent and nightclub producer, and discovered comedians Fred Allen and Jack Haley, who would go on to star as the Tin Man in the classic film “The Wizard of Oz.”
Growing up around celebrities taught a young Barbara a lesson that she relied upon throughout her career.
“I would see them onstage looking one way and offstage often looking very different. I would hear my parents talk about them and know that even though those performers were very special people, they were also human beings with real-life problems,” Walters said in a 1989 interview with the Television Academy of Arts & Sciences. “I can have respect and admiration for famous people, but I have never had a sense of fear or awe.”
In her 2008 memoir “Audition,” Walters revealed that she got her ambition to succeed from her older sister, Jacqueline, who was born developmentally disabled.
“Her condition also altered my life,” Walters wrote. “I think I knew from a very early age that at some point Jackie would become my responsibility. That awareness was one of the main reasons I was driven to work so hard. But my feelings went beyond financial responsibility.
“Much of the need I had to prove myself, to achieve, to provide, to protect, can be traced to my feelings about Jackie. But there must be something more, the ‘Something’ that makes one need to excel,” she added. “Some may call it ambition. I can live with that. Some may call it insecurity, although that is such a boring, common label, like being called shy, that means little. But as I look back, it feels to me that my life has been one long audition — an attempt to make a difference and to be accepted.”
After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, in the 1950s, Walters found work as a publicist and television writer, before landing a spot as a writer on NBC’s “Today” show in 1961. She would become the program’s first female co-host in 1974, and won her first Emmy award the following year for Outstanding Talk Show Host. Readmore