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Barbara Walters, trailblazing TV icon, dies at 93

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Barbara Walters, the trailblazing television news broadcaster and longtime ABC News anchor and correspondent who shattered the glass ceiling and became a dominant force in an industry once dominated by men, has died. She was 93.

Walters joined ABC News in 1976, becoming the first female anchor on an evening news program. Three years later, she became a co-host of 20/20, and in 1997, she launched The View.

In a career that spanned five decades, Walters won 12 Emmy awards, 11 of those while at ABC News.

She made her final appearance as a co-host of The View in 2014, but remained an executive producer of the show and continued to do some interviews and specials for ABC News.

Barbara Jill Walters was born in Boston on Sept. 25, 1929, to Dena and Louis “Lou” Walters. After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York in the 1950s, Walters found work as a publicist and television writer before landing a spot as a writer on NBC’s Today show in 1961. She would become the program’s first female co-host in 1974, and won her first Emmy award the following year for Outstanding Talk Show Host.

In 1976, Walters found a new home on ABC’s Evening News, making history as the first female co-anchor of an evening news program.

At ABC, her interviews were wide-ranging and her access to public figures unparalleled. She crossed the Bay of Pigs with Fidel Castro and conducted the first joint interview with Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin. She also developed a reputation for asking tough questions.

There were lighter interviews, too. For years, she hosted an annual Oscars special, in which she interviewed Academy Award nominees and was known for making a number of them reveal deeply personal information and even cry. In 1994, she launched the “Most Fascinating People” special, which aired every December and afforded her the opportunity to chat with the year’s top newsmakers.

With The View, she created a forum for women of different backgrounds and views to come together and discuss the latest hot topics in the news — a format that has since been widely imitated by other networks.

Walters was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1989 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2000.

Part of ABC News’ headquarters in New York was renamed “The Barbara Walters Building” in May 2014. During the ceremony, Walters accepted the honor by saying, “People ask me very often, ‘What is your legacy?’ And it’s not the interviews with presidents, or heads of state, nor celebrities.”

She continued, “If I have a legacy, and I’ve said this before and I mean it so sincerely, I hope that I played a small role in paving the way for so many of you fabulous women.”

 

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