Few are around who remember the first Mike Wallace: the former actor, Green Hornet announcer and game-show host who appeared in cigarette ads and, years later, in a boozy, smoky, nighttime local TV show in New York City during the Mad Men era. No one who saw him then would have dreamed of attaching the word journalist to his title. Yet he became one of the premier journalists of our age.
On 60 Minutes, Mike always went after the sweaty, guilty big guy on behalf of the little guy. On camera, he stopped at nothing in pursuit of a sound bite — while off camera, he led a life that was often a painful mix of love and loss and damage. He eventually went public with his struggle with depression so others could know they had a companion in the darkness.
Mike’s world at CBS was more like a PBS nature show: he was the rangy lion, and he saw everyone else as a wildebeest with a limp. He smiled, approached and went in for the kill. For more than 50 years, he interviewed, fought and flirted with actresses, dictators, kings, scoundrels and laureates. We won’t see his kind again.
Williams is the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News and Rock Center
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