Mike Wallace was born Myron Wallace. His family’s surname was originally Wallechinsky. He was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, to Russian Jewish parents Frank and Zina Wallace (neé Sharfman). His dad was hardworking and ambitious as a grocer and insurance broker. They sent their son through high school and then University of Michigan, where he graduated in 1939 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Mike was what used to be called ‘a frat boy,’ a member of the Alpha Gamma Chapter of the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity.
Mike was an announcer for some of the old time radio shows of his day: Sky King, Secret Agent, and so on.
He was also a game show host.
He joined the Navy late in WWII, but saw ‘no live fire’, but his ship USS Anthedon, a submarine tender, traveled to Hawaii, Australia, and Subic Bay in the Philippines and patrolled the South China Sea, the Philippine Sea and in waters south of Japan.
Mike came back to Chicago, announced wrestling matches, starred in a short lived radio show, announced for Parliament cigarettes especially. As well as Fluffo shortening.
I’d say the turn came from pop culture lite for Mike when Louis Lomax told Wallace about the Nation of Islam. Lomax and Wallace produced a five-part documentary about the organization, The Hate That Hate Produced, which aired during the week of July 13, 1959. The program was the first time most white people heard about the Nation, its leader, Elijah Muhammad, and its charismatic spokesman, Malcolm X.
You know the rest of the story re Wallace, who also got sued by General William Westmoreland for libel (suit dropped after CBS clarified its reportorial intent) … but during the law suit proceedings, Mike was hospitalized with what was said to be “exhaustion.” But his wife, Mary, forced him to a doctor, who diagnosed Wallace with clinical depression. Mike began taking an antidepressant and underwent psychotherapy.
Out of a belief of that time in our culture, that if others knew he was taking an antidepressant, it would be perceived as a weakness, Wallace kept his depression a secret. Later, he revealed it in an interview with Bob Costas on his late-night talk show that he’d been depressed. And, in a later interview with colleague Morley Safer, he revealed he attempted suicide circa 1986.
Mike Wallace had lost his eldest son, Peter, in 1962. Peter had tragically died at age 19 in a mountain-climbing accident in Greece.
Mike was married four times, his final marriage to Mary from 1986 to the present.
Chris Wallace is Mike’s other son who is a journalist also. Mike Wallace had been having health challenges for some time. He announced his retirement from 60 Minutes in 2006, and it was his son Chris who announced in June 2008 that his father would not be returning to television.
from wikipedia: “60 Minutes …led to some run-ins with the people interviewed. While interviewing Louis Farrakhan, Wallace alleged that Nigeria is the most corrupt country in the world. Farrakhan immediately shot back, declaring “Nigeria didn’t bomb Hiroshima or slaughter millions of Indians!” “Can you think of a more corrupt country?” asked Wallace. “I am living in one,” said Farrakhan.”
Mike would have been 94 years old in another month.
RIP Myron “Mike” Wallace. May your family be comforted.
The photo is of a younger Mike Wallace and Harry Reasoner on the Sixty Minutes set. Photo and facts with citations drawn from wikipedia profile and general articles.