(1931 - )
By Seymour "Sy" Brody
Barbara Walters has become a television superstar through her state of the arts form of questioning of celebrities and journalistic instinct. She achieved this status the hard way as she broke through "the man's world of television journalism."
She was born on September 25, 1931, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Dena and Lou Walters, who was the owner of New York City's famous nightclub, The Latin Quarter. She was raised in Miami and New York as her father's business of being an impresario took them to these two cities during the year. Because she was surrounded by celebrities who worked and socialized with her father, she was not intimidated by their presence.
She attended public schools in New York and Miami and then entered Sarah Lawrence College, in Bronxville, New York. She received her B.A. degree in English in 1953. After graduation, she moved to New York City where she wanted to pursue a career in television.
She was hired by RCA-TV, the local affiliate of NBC, to do some writing, producing and public relations. Her talent was recognized by Dave Garaway, an early host of the Today Show, who invited her to become a writer on his staff. It was not long before she was given on-air assignments. The choice news stories were assigned to the men and Walters had to break through this wall of sexism. Her popularity rose because of her unique ability to interview celebrities.
They gave her a regular spot on the show for her interviews. She was able to schedule members of the Kennedy family, the widow and children of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other important and well known people. This was also a period where television learned how to become an important media in reporting breaking news as it was happening. In 1976, ABC hired her from NBC, as a co-anchor woman for their prime news time at a record breaking one million dollars a year. In November, 1977, Walters scored her biggest scoop when she interviewed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
Walters has continued to conduct interviews with such well known personalities as Princess Diana of England, General Colin Powell, Hillary Rodham Clinton, wife of President William Clinton, Robert Shapiro, famous defense attorney, etc. Her ability in drawing people out, understanding the situation and to make it as clear as possible during interviews has attributed to her success. The year 1996 marks the twentieth anniversary of her relationship with the American Broadcasting. Her 20/20 television show is always in the weekly top ratings according to the polls. Walters has substituted many times for a vacationing Ted Koppel on his Nightline program and has her own special programs throughout the year.
Barbara Walters was married and divorced. She has an adopted daughter, Jacqueline, with whom she enjoys the mother-daughter relationship. Jacqueline once complained to a friend, "My mommy can't drive and she can't make meat loaf. All my mommy can do is television."
Barbara Walters is a television superstar who broke through the male dominated news broadcasting. Her success as a television newscaster and host of magazine programs and special shows proves that women can achieve stardom in television when given the opportunity.
This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America : 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.
Source: Jewish Heroes and Heroines in America.