For more than half a century, legendary newsman Mike Wallace walked a delicate tightrope between letting his often famous and polarizing interview subjects off the hook and verbally attacking them to the point of becoming the story himself. First on the radio, later in the newsroom and finally on 60 Minutes, he sat across from the movers and shakers and gave the world a voice to ask many of the questions they didn’t have the power nor the guts to ask themselves. He passed away surrounded by friends and family yesterday evening, leaving behind millions of admirers and an entire generation of journalists who swear by his tough but fair approach.

Wallace was born in 1918 in Brookline, Massachusetts and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1939. Throughout his life, he spoke fondly of his time in Ann Arbor rooting for the maize and blue, even appearing a few years ago on an HBO college football documentary to get in a few digs at hated Ohio State. After graduation, he went into radio and worked at several stations before joining the Navy as a communications officer during World War II. More work in radio and a career as a television game show host followed until Wallace landed his own interview program on ABC in 1957. A little more than ten years later, he joined 60 Minutes and remained a regular contributor until his semi-retirement in 2006.

Based on his time in front of the camera alone, Wallace would no doubt be fondly remembered by millions, but to simply speak of his tenure would undermine the significant contribution he actually made to journalism. The newscaster wasn’t just one of many interviewers politicians, celebrities and athletes used to tell their stories. At some point, after hundreds, maybe even thousands of interviewers, Wallace became the man everyone went to for a tough but fair sitdown. He became the model for how to grill someone without losing objectivity. From Putin to Farrakhan, from Dali to Rand, he bantered with the best and brightest without ever getting run over or compromising his values.

The world lost a great journalist yesterday, but thanks to the pride he took in his work, someone he inspired will step up and take his place.

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