In another celebrated case that took 12 years to play out, Wallace's producer Barry Lando was sued for $44 million by Lt. Col. Anthony Herbert. The libel suit against Wallace's 1973 "60 Minutes" report, "The Selling of Colonel Herbert," caused a precedent-setting Supreme Court ruling allowing lawyers to question the thoughts and opinions of reporters. Initially, CBS lawyers argued successfully in a New York federal appeals court that Lando could not be questioned that way as it would infringe on the editorial process protected under the First Amendment. But the Supreme Court in 1979 reversed it, ruling that Herbert was entitled to know the producer's mindset, as it was crucial to proving malice. Nevertheless, the report was accurate in its main elements, and, in 1986, Herbert v. Lando was thrown out.
The road to "60 Minutes" began for Wallace when his son, Peter, died in a hiking accident in Greece in 1962. Wallace's jobs in broadcasting then included entertainment programs and commercials in addition to reporting, but he decided then that he would devote his career to journalism alone to honor Peter, a Yale student who aspired to a writing career. Wallace's other son, Chris, became a journalist and is currently host of "Fox News Sunday."
Wallace went to Vietnam, India and Africa to report for Westinghouse Radio's "Around the World in 40 Days," but really wanted to be hired by CBS News, the "mother church," as he often referred to it. He was turned down at first, despite some remarkable documentary work, including a breakthrough piece on black Muslims, "The Hate That Hate Produced." In fact, CBS News wouldn't broadcast a documentary on nuclear proliferation that he reported because he appeared in cigarette ads. Promising to drop commercial work, he was made a correspondent at CBS News in 1963.
Starting first on "CBS Morning News With Mike Wallace," he went on to contribute to most of the network's other news programs, including the "CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite," reporting from Vietnam, Washington and the campaign trail in 1968 with Richard Nixon (who offered Wallace the White House press secretary job). He made news at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that year by getting ejected from the proceedings for an altercation with police on the convention floor.
It wasn't the first time Wallace had worked for CBS. He began at the network in 1951, when he and his wife, Buff Cobb, with whom he hosted "The Chez Show" on local Chicago television, were invited to New York. He did several CBS programs, two with Cobb: "Mike and Buff," an afternoon talk show that was television's first color telecast, and an on-location interview program called "All Around the Town." As was the norm then, he also reported for the news division, covering political conventions and other events.
Leaving CBS in 1955, his career through the early 1960s became a hodgepodge of appearances for the tireless broadcaster, who was seen on all three networks and several independent stations. He even starred briefly in a Broadway production of "Reclining Figure," and played himself in Elia Kazan's celebrated film about the media, "A Face in the Crowd." He did the TV quiz show "The Big Surprise" and the radio show "Weekday," but he never lost sight of his true calling. It was also during this time that he began "Night Beat," anchored the original Peabody-Award winning series "Biography," anchored and reported several documentaries, including "The Race for Space," and headed up the news department of local New York station WNTA. Then on Channel 13, WNTA was the first television station in the U.S. to broadcast a half-hour news program; it was called "News Beat" and Wallace anchored it. He also continued "The Mike Wallace Interview" on WNTA in 1959. [The ABC Network, the program's previous home, had dropped it because it became too controversial.]
Myron Leon Wallace was born in Brookline, Mass., on May 9, 1918. He attended Brookline High School and was graduated from the University of Michigan in 1939 with a B.A. degree in liberal arts. He became acquainted with radio at the college station and, after graduation, a professor helped him land his first job as an announcer and "rip-and-read" reporter for WOOD-WASH, a Grand Rapids, Mich. radio station.