Mike Wallace retired from the 60 Minutes airwaves in 2006 but promised to continue with occasional reports. His last report for 60 Minutes came in January 2008 when he conducted an interview with Roger Clemens about the former Yankees pitcher’s alleged steroid use. A frustrated Clemens sat with Wallace to discuss his baseball career that ended in disgrace. Wallace came armed with pages of research to question Clemens, and even as an 89-year-old managed to prod the pitcher fiercely and mercilessly.
He described himself as “nosy and insistent,” former 60 Minutes colleague Morley Safer recounted. Wallace, who died Saturday night at a Connecticut care facility, helped pioneer the television newsmagazine style that would catapult 60 Minutes to the near top of the ratings. He was lauded by viewers and feared by subjects for his interrogating questions that didn’t mince words, but always managed to get an answer thanks to his subtly disarming personality.
As a result he landed interviews with dozens of international icons over the past five decades: Wallace sat down with Martin Luther King, Salvador Dali, Mitt Romney and even the legendarily quiet Eleanor Roosevelt. Throughout his career, he notched up 21 Emmys – but of most pride to him was the immeasurable respect he commanded from fellow journalists and viewers alike.