TV icon and journalist Barbara Walters has died. She was 93.
ABC News was first to report the death on Friday, December 30. Walters’ rep, Cindi Berger, later confirmed the heartbreaking news to Us Weekly.
“Barbara Walters passed away peacefully in her home surrounded by loved ones,” Berger shared in a statement to Us. “She lived her life with no regrets. She was a trailblazer not only for female journalists, but for all women.”
Born in Boston in September 1929, Walters was raised in Massachusetts for the first decade of her life before her family moved to Miami for a few years, eventually going back up north to New York City. She graduated high school in 1947 before she went to Sarah Lawrence College, where she left with an English degree in 1951.
After finishing undergrad, she started working at a small advertising agency before going to NBC to help with publicity. She produced her first program, a 15-minute segment for kids called Ask the Camera, in 1953.
The journalist got her big break on NBC’s The Today Show in 1961. Walters started as a researcher and writer before becoming the “Today Girl,” handling fluffier stories and weather reports. Within a year, she was a reporter-at-large, doing more serious interviews. Still, she had trouble being taken seriously as a woman. Host Frank McGee refused to do joint interviews unless he asked the first three questions. Walters wasn’t named the first female cohost until after McGee’s death in 1974.
She joined ABC Evening News in 1976 and started her two-decade run on the network’s 20/20 newsmagazine program, where she interviewed everyone who was anyone. In addition to 20/20, Walters was best recognized as creating The View in 1997, which she led until stepping down in 2014. Between 1993 and 2015, she also hosted her annual Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People program, where she highlighted ten public figures at the end of each year.
The broadcasting legend was known for six decades of reporting, which included speaking one-on-one with notable icons and political figures including Audrey Hepburn, Fidel Castro, Christopher Reeve, Michael Jackson and Vladimir Putin. Throughout her career, Walters elicited a shocking amount of candor from her interviewees.
In a 1977 interview, Bing Crosby claimed he would never again speak to any of his children if they had premarital sex. In 1992, John Lennon‘s murderer Mark David Chapman explained to Walters why he killed the “Imagine” singer: “I thought by killing him, I would acquire his fame.”
One of Walters’ most memorable interviews was in 1999, when she sat down with Monica Lewinsky following the news that the former White House intern had an affair with Bill Clinton, who was President of the United States at the time. A record-breaking 74 million viewers tuned in as Lewinsky, then 25, told Walters that she made a “big mistake” when it came to her romance with Clinton.
The View alum spoke with Us Weekly in 2014 following her last episode on the ABC series about how she prepared to speak with some of the most famous faces in the world one-on-one.
“I do my homework, so I have a certain sense of authority. Sometimes I know more about the person than they do themselves. I’m very rarely nervous,” she told Us at the time. “When I finish an interview, I do ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda,’ and it drives me crazy, but when I’m actually doing the interview, I’m fine in authority and that’s a good feeling.”
The famed journalist believed that her personal life suffered due to her dedication to work. “I don’t think that I was very good at marriage,” Walters said in the 2014 ABC News special Barbara Walters: Her Story. “It may be that my career was just too important. It may have been that I was a difficult person to be married to, and I just seem to be better alone. I’m not lonely, I’m alone.”
In 1955, Walters tied the knot with Robert Katz but their marriage was annulled the following year. She was later married to Lee Guber — with whom she shared daughter Jacqueline — from 1963 to 1976. She went on to wed Merv Adelson in 1981 before they divorced three years later. They reconciled and remarried in 1986, however, they went their separate ways for good in 1992.
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“I was so busy with a career. It’s the age-old problem,” Walters told ABC in 2014. “And, you know, on your deathbed, are you going to say, ‘I wish I spent more time in the office?’ No. You’ll say, ‘I wish I spent more time with my family,’ and I do feel that way. I wish I had spent more time with my Jackie.”
Jacqueline was born in 1968 and adopted later that year. Walters had three miscarriages and was thrilled to finally become a mother.