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Mike Wallace, '60 Minutes' star interviewer, dies

April 8, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Mike Wallace, the star interviewer on CBS news' "60 Minutes" for decades, has died. He was 93.

A CBS spokesman said Wallace died Saturday night at a care facility in New Canaan, Conn., where he lived in recent years.

Wallace was known as a dogged, merciless reporter and interviewer who took on politicians, celebrities and other public figures during his 60-year career.

His reputation was so fearsome that it was often said that the scariest words in the English language were, "Mike Wallace is here to see you."

Until he was slowed by heart surgery as he neared his 90th birthday in 2008, Wallace continued on "60 Minutes" interviewing such subjects as Jack Kevorkian and Roger Clemens. He announced his retirement as a regular correspondent in 2006 but promised to still do occasional reports.

After bowing out as a regular, his later contributions included a 2007 profile of GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, and an interview with Kevorkian, the assisted suicide doctor released from prison in 2007 who died last year.

Wallace was the first man hired when late CBS news producer Don Hewitt put together the staff of "60 Minutes" at its inception in 1968. The show wasn't a hit at first, but it worked its way up to the top 10 in the 1977-78 season and remained there, season after season, with Wallace as one of its mainstays. Among other things, it proved there could be big profits in TV journalism.

The show broke the ground of using "ambush interviews" with reporter and camera crew corralling alleged wrongdoers in parking lots, hallways, wherever a comment might be harvested from someone dodging the reporters' phone calls.

Such tactics were phased out over time - Wallace said they provided drama but not much good information. It just wasn't his style.

Wallace was a master of the skeptical follow-up question, coaxing his prey with a "forgive me, but ..." or a simple, "come on." He was known to do his homework, spending hours preparing for interviews, and alongside the exposes, "60 Minutes" featured insightful talks with celebrities and world leaders.

Wallace was born Myron Wallace on May 9, 1918, in Brookline, Mass. He began his news career in Chicago in the 1940s, first as radio news writer for the Chicago Sun and then as reporter for WMAQ. He started at CBS in 1951.

He was married four times. In 1986, he wed Mary Yates Wallace, the widow of his close friend and colleague, Ted Yates, who had died in 1967. Besides his wife, Wallace is survived by his son, Chris, a stepdaughter, Pauline Dora, and stepson Eames Yates. His wife declined to comment Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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