The Heartbreaking Death Of Barbara Walters

Barbara Walters, renowned broadcast journalist, died at 93 on December 30, ABC News reported. She's survived by her daughter Jacqueline "Jackie" Danforth, who Walters adopted at birth with her second husband, Lee Guber. Known for her hard-hitting interviews with all kinds of legendary politicians and celebrities, Walters retired from being on-air in 2014 (via CNN), and she didn't appear in public much after 2016, according to PopCulture

Walters left quite the legacy in the industry, noting during her acceptance speech for her Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, "I have been blessed with a life I never expected, and helping me up the steps of the ladder over the years have been hundreds of people," per ABC News. 

In honor of this trailblazing woman, we are taking a look back at her life and groundbreaking work over the years.

Walters had a difficult childhood

Barbara Walters was born in Boston in 1929 to Dena Seletsky Walters and Lou Walters. One of three children, her brother Burton died of pneumonia in 1932, and her younger sister Jacqueline, who was born developmentally disabled, died in 1985 (via Biography). According to The New York Times, Walters grew up with the belief, "that God afflicted at least one member of every family" as a way to come to grips with the early tragedy of her brother's death and the family's financial struggles. 

Her father was a vaudeville booking agent and started a nightclub in Boston that eventually expanded into Miami and New York. Walters spent much of her life traveling between the three cities. She revealed to the outlet, "I always felt that I was on the outside, looking in at a normal family situation. [I] didn't know fathers were supposed to come home for supper . . . I wanted to be normal, to live in the suburbs." 

Despite her difficult childhood, Walters was always a good student and enjoyed school. She went to Sarah Lawrence College in New York, which according to the school's website, now boasts a student center in her honor, called the Barbara Walters Campus Center. A short-lived marriage after college that ended in a quick annulment sent Walters back to school to become a secretary (per The New York Times). She worked briefly at CBS before taking a job as a publicist which eventually earned her a spot as a writer on "Today."

She made history as the first female news co-host

According to PBS, in less than a year as a writer for "Today," Barbara Walters was promoted to reporter-at-large, where she pitched, wrote, and edited her own news stories and interviews. Her national journalism debut was in 1962, and one of her early stories included going undercover as a Playboy Bunny (via Today).

Her first high profile trip was with First Lady Jackie Kennedy to India and Pakistan in 1962 (per YouTube). Walters became increasingly popular, and scored interviews with Presidents Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon, and Prince Philip among others, reported The New York Times. She also had a popular five year syndicated series "Not for Women Only," as PBS noted. In 1974, Walters made history as the first woman co-host of "The Today Show" (via Today).

By 1976, Walters secured the role of co-host of the evening news for ABC News, a first for the network, and she was paid an impressive $1 million per year, Variety wrote. In 1977, she made history again by setting up the first joint interview between Israel's Prime Minister and Egypt's President to discuss Middle East peace, as ABC News explained. Those weren't the only foreign heads of state she interviewed; Walters also traveled to Cuba to interview Fidel Castro in 1977 — he infamously made her a grilled cheese sandwich (via Harper's Bazaar).

The journalist had trouble balancing her personal and professional life

In between building a historic career in media, Barbara Walters married for a second time in 1963 to Lee Gruber, a theater producer. The marriage lasted for 13 years according to The Things, before the couple divorced. In an interview with ABC News she revealed, "I don't think that I was very good at marriage. 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." 

Candidly honest about her struggles with infertility, Walters and Gruber adopted daughter Jackie, named after her sister Jacqueline. Preferring a more quiet life, Jackie is rarely photographed, and mother and daughter had a notoriously rocky ride during her teenage years (via The Things). 

In a 2014 interview with Piers Morgan, Walters expressed her greatest life regret, sharing, "[I] regret not having more children." But Walters also noted to ABC News, the same year that, "I was so busy with a career. It's the age-old problem." Adding, "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." 

Barbara Walters spent 25 years on '20/20' and created 'The View'

Barbara Walters joined "20/20" in 1979 as a co-host and chief correspondent, and was there for 25 years (via Oprah). Some of her notable interviews included Katharine Hepburn, Michael Jackson, Christopher Reeves, Muammar Gadhafi, Vladimir Putin, and Monica Lewinsky (per ABC News). The Lewinsky interview was, at the time, the most-watched news interview in network TV history, according to the LA Times.

In 1997, Barbara Walters went on to create the daytime talk show, "The View," where she worked as an executive producer and was on-air until 2014, ET reported. Walters explained her desire to create the groundbreaking show, hosted by a panel of women, in the opening credits, "I've always wanted to do a show with women of different generations, backgrounds and views" (via The New York Times). Walters and the panel interviewed all kinds of celebrities, including politicians Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and even Donald Trump.

The recipient of countless awards and nominations including a Lifetime Achievement Award at Glamour's Woman of the Year event in 1999, multiple Emmy awards, and even a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. These accolades showcased the impact she had on televised news and her role in the advancement of women in the media. Her advice to young women looking to start a journalism career was, "go to work early, leave late when all your work is completed and do your homework" (via Time).

Although Barbara Walters will be missed her influence in news, entertainment, and the media, will live on forever.