Mike Wallace: A Lion In Winter

A Look At The Extraordinary Highlights Of His Career

By a rough count, since the birth of 60 Minutes, Wallace has done more than 800 reports involving thousands of interviews, from the hilarious to the heartbreaking.

In terms of power and poignancy, his interview with former Secret Service agent Clint Hill has no equal.

Hill was the agent who climbed aboard John Kennedy's car in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, risking his own life seconds after the president was shot. For years, Hill blamed himself for Kennedy's death. He talked about it publicly for the first time with Wallace.

"It was my fault," Hill told Wallace.

"Ohh. No one has ever suggested that for an instant. What you did was show great bravery and great presence of mind. What was on the citation that was given you for your work on November 22nd, 1963?" Wallace said.

"I don't care about that, Mike," Hill replied.

"Extraordinary courage and heroic effort in the face of maximum danger …" Wallace remarked.

"Mike, I don't care about that," Hill said. "If I had reacted just a little bit quicker. And I could have, I guess. And I'll live with that to my grave."

Over the years, Wallace interviewed his friends the Reagans many times.

"Why hasn't this job weighed as heavily on you as it has on some other occupants of this Oval Office?" Wallace asked the president.

"Well, Mike, I don't know what the answer to that would be," President Reagan replied. "Well. Maybe none of them had a Nancy."

Wallace reported on them from the sunny days at the California ranch, to the White House and to the long goodbye — after the Reagans announced he had Alzheimer's.

"Do you think he knows you still?" Wallace asked Nancy Reagan.

"I don't know," the former first lady replied.

Asked if she had said her goodbyes, she said, "No. He's there. He's there."

Wallace has been around so long that he's interviewed presidents and first ladies going all the way back to Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1950s.

"A good many people hated your husband. They even hated you," Wallace told Mrs. Roosevelt.

"Oh yes," she replied with a laugh. "A great many do still."

Matter of fact, you can take any historic moment in recent decades and there, somewhere in the frame, like Forrest Gump or Woody Allen's character Zelig, you'd usually find Mike.

In the 1960s alone, he interviewed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President John F. Kennedy and Malcolm X, who, months before his death, confessed to Mike his fear that his enemies in the black Muslim movement were plotting his assassination.

"Are you not perhaps afraid of what might happen to you as a result of making these revelations?" Wallace asked Malcolm X.

"Oh yes. I am probably a dead man already," he replied.