Barbara Walters

Television Journalist and Host

Barbara Walters, 1993
Barbara Walters, 1993. Frank Capri/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Known for: the first woman to (co-)anchor a network evening news show

Occupation: journalist, talk show host, and producer

Dates: September 25, 1931 -

Barbara Walters Biography

Barbara Walters' father, Lou Walters, had lost his fortune in the Depression, then became the owner of the Latin Quarter, with nightclubs in New York, Boston, and Florida. Barbara Walters attended school in those three states. Her mother was Dena Selett Waters, and she had one sister, Jacqueline, who was developmentally disabled (d. 1988).

In 1954, Barbara Walters graduated from Sarah Lawrence College, with a degree in English. She briefly worked at an ad agency, then went to work at an ABC-affiliated New York television station. She moved from there to work with the CBS network and then, in 1961, to NBC's Today show.

When Today co-host Frank McGee died in 1974, Barbara Walters was named Hugh Downs' new co-host.

Also in 1974, Barbara Walters was the host of a short-lived daytime talk show, Not for Women Only.

ABC Evening News Co-Anchor

Barely two years later, Barbara Walters became national news herself, when ABC signed her to a 5-year, $1 million per year contract, to co-anchor the evening news and to anchor four specials per year. She became, through this job, the first woman to co-anchor an evening news program.

Her co-host, Harry Reasoner, made quite publicly clear his unhappiness with this teaming. The arrangement did not improve ABC's poor news show ratings, however, and in 1978, Barbara Walters stepped down, joining the news show 20/20. In 1984, in an ironic replay of history, she became co-host of 20/20 with Hugh Downs. The show expanded to three nights a week, and at one time Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer co-hosted one of the evenings.


She continued the Barbara Walters Specials, which began in 1976 with a show featuring interviews with President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter and with Barbra Streisand. Barbara Walters provoked more truth-telling than the subjects probably expected. Other famous interview subjects of her shows have included, jointly, Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel in 1977, and Fidel Castro, Princess Diana, Christopher Reeves, Robin Givens, Monica Lewinsky, and Colin Powell.

In 1982 and 1983, Barbara Walters won Emmy awards for her interviewing. Among her many other awards, she was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 1990.

In 1997, Barbara Walters created with Bill Geddie a daytime talk show, The View. She co-produced the show with Geddie and co-hosted it with four other women of diverse ages and views.

In 2004, Barbara Walters stepped down from her regular spot on 20/20. She published her autobiography, Audition: A Memoir, in 2008. She had open heart surgery in 2010 to repair a heart valve.

Walters retired from The View as a co-host in 2014, though occasionally returned as a guest co-host.

Personal Life

Barbara Walters was married three times: Robert Henry Katz (1955-58), Lee Guber (1963-1976), and Merv Adelson (1986-1992). She and Lee Guber adopted a daughter in 1968, named Jacqueline Dena after Walters' sister and mother.

She also dated or was linked romantically to Alan Greenspan (U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman) and Senator John Warner.

In her 2008 autobiography, she recounted a 1970s affair with married US Senator Edward Brooke, and that they had ended the affair to avoid scandal.

She's been criticized for friendships with Roger Ailes, Henry Kissinger, and Roy Cohn.

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Your Citation
Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Barbara Walters." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2020, August 26). Barbara Walters. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Barbara Walters." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 5, 2023).