Former CBS investigative reporter Mike Wallace has received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Illinois School of Journalism at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York on October 13.
Wallace worked as a correspondent on CBS 60 Minutes from its creation in 1968 until his retirement in 2006. During that time, he earned 20 Emmy Awards for his hard hitting investigations and interviews.
Wallace graduated from the University of Michigan in 1939, and went to work right away in radio, reading the news and checking continuity in a local Grand Rapids station. He moved within a year to Detroit, where he worked briefly as an announcer on WXYZ radio.
Wallace then moved to Chicago, working as a freelance radio correspondent before joining the U.S. Navy in 1943 as a communications officer. He returned to Chicago after World War II, and became an announcer for CBS radio.
Wallace did not begin his career as a journalist, but was more of a journeyman on radio, doing everything from reading the news, announcer for game shows, and voice work for radio programs with Spike Jones, and as an announcer for The Green Hornet. During the 1950s, his primary source of income was from Parliament cigarette commercials.
Wallace big break came in 1963, when he was hired by CBS, and was the host for the precursor to the CBS Morning News, which he helmed until 1966. Wallace worked as a reporter for the next two years, and then came 60 Minutes.
During his 43 year tenure with CBS, Wallace also hosted numerous special reports and investigations, perhaps the most infamous his report in 1985 on the Vietnam War, after which he was sued for libel by General William Westmoreland and accused of slanted reporting. CBS issued a formal apology to Westmoreland, which ended the suit.
Wallace has received numerous awards over his career on top of the 20 Emmy Awards and the University of Illinois honor. He has also received three Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three George Foster Peabody Awards, a Robert E. Sherwood Award, a Distinguished Achievement Award from the University of Southern California School Of Journalism and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in the international broadcast category. In September 2003, Wallace received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy.
This is the inaugural awarding of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the University of Illinois. The prize honors individuals whose career contributions to public affairs reporting represent the highest and best achievements of American journalism, and is selected by the faculty of the School of Journalism for “work that consistently served as a beacon for other journalists, set the highest standards of excellence in the field, and placed the public good and public awareness before all else.”
Wallace turns 90 next May 9.