Forever associated with the 60 Minutes Sunday-night news magazine on CBS -- which he anchored for an astonishing 38 years (1968-2006) -- Mike Wallace became synonymous with on-air trustworthiness and reliability, and the nation's preeminent guide to outstanding, documentary-style probes of contemporary issues and global phenomena. Born May 9, 1918, in the posh Boston suburb of Brookline, MA, Wallace attended the University of Michigan as a young man, and later accepted a job as announcer at WOOD-AM radio in nearby Grand Rapids (in 1939). Wallace segued from this into a stint manning radio commercials and announcing serialized radio dramas at stations in Detroit and Chicago. Within a decade, Wallace leapt into the then-nascent medium of television with full abandon, working in any and every capacity allowed him, including dramatic roles, game shows, and the occasional assignment hosting a talk show, such as the now-forgotten Mike and Buff.
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In 1963, Wallace grew sick of non-news interests and reported to CBS News president Richard Salent, asserting that he had "sanitized" himself of all television matters unconnected to nonfiction reportage. Salent allegedly hired Wallace with a 65-percent pay deduction, but the burgeoning newsman persisted, and in time received title credit on the CBS morning news broadcasts; The CBS Morning News With Mike Wallace ran from 1963 through 1966 and garnered enormous popularity. But Wallace's greatest legacy was still at least two years away. On Tuesday evening, September 24, 1968, 60 Minutes premiered at 10:00 p.m., with Wallace as its chief anchor and Harry Reasoner as his co-host. According to Broadcasting magazine, the format itself developed out of Night Beat, a local talk program hosted by Wallace in 1956, in which he had exhibited a trademark "adversarial style" of journalism. 60 Minutes producers' strategy involved counterbalancing this aggression with Reasoner's genial "nice guy" approach. The plan worked, and the program's ratings shot up to astronomical levels, qualifying it as nothing less than a national phenomenon. As noted, Wallace remained on 60 Minutes for decades, but even after he retired, he returned from time to time to man periodic interviews.
In addition to his role on 60 Minutes, Wallace occasionally dabbled in acting, with a cameo in Elia Kazan's shattering indictment of television, A Face in the Crowd (1957), as well as a humorous 1993 guest appearance on Murphy Brown (a series that a number of his colleagues also appeared on). Wallace hosted the popular documentary series The 20th Century With Mike Wallace (1994-2000), which investigated everything from the Gulf War to celebrity murders to gun control and hurricanes. He also appears as an interviewee in the documentaries Vietnam: Chronicle of a War (1981) and Watergate: The Secret Story (1992).
Wallace died in 2012 at the age of 93. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi