Legendary journalist Mike Wallace, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 93, made a name for himself interviewing the famous and infamous; he wasn’t afraid to dig deep to find the answers he wanted, even if it meant making himself unpopular.
But the man who made a living asking questions rarely answered any about his own life. He was deeply guarded and preferred to be on the other side of the interview, sometimes just giving a coy smile when asked to confirm wild rumors about his early career in journalism.
The New York Times has released a video interview of Wallace, however, which goes fairly in-depth and reveals both tantalizing and saddening bits of his personal life. “Last Word: Mike Wallace” goes in depth about his early years and is an interesting look into the life of someone who lived through an era before television, when being in radio was the biggest dream a young journalist could have. He also confirms a rumor about President Nixon asking him to be Press Secretary during his administration, which he thought seriously about and ultimately turned down because, as he says, he wasn’t good at “putting a good face on bad facts”.
Wallace also opens up a bit about the tragic story of his son Peter, who fell to his death on a rock outcropping while on a trip to Greece in 1962. Wallace had high hopes for his son–who he says would have been a “hell of a reporter”–to follow in his own career aspirations, and after Peter’s death realized he wasn’t making an effort to do so himself. Until then, Wallace had been working at a variety of jobs and had saved up enough money to keep him afloat while he hunted down his dream.
“I said, ‘I’m going to do something that would make Peter proud’,” Wallace says. “I’m going to give up everything…and start talking to the networks and see if I can get a job as a network reporter.”
Wallace eventually landed a job with CBS and became one of the most recognizable faces in the world of news on “60 Minutes”, a show which will enter its 44th season this year.