Nation mourns passing of Betty White

by mcardinal

Lauren Moye, FISM News


Pop culture star Betty White passed away on Friday just weeks before celebrating her 100th birthday. After serving over eight decades as an entertainer with most of that time concentrated in TV appearances, the iconic white-haired woman’s death means that the nation started a new year with the loss of one of its most well-known sweethearts.

Her agent, Jeff Witjas, told People magazine, “Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever.”

People magazine recently ran a special on White in anticipation of her upcoming birthday. White retweeted this cover just days before her death:

In a memorial tweet, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences called White a “legend, trailblazer and cultural icon.”

Betty Marion White was born in Oak Park, Illinois on Jan. 17, 1922. Her family later moved to Los Angeles, California. She began her entertainment career in the late 1930s as a radio singer. Her first television appearance also involved singing on a Los Angeles experimental channel in 1939.

After World War II, White landed a role in 1949 as a regular on Hollywood on Television, a 5-hour variety show program. Before the end of the 1950s, White demonstrated her trailblazing spirit by co-founding a production company and creating and starring in the sitcom “Life with Elizabeth.” 

“It’s incredible that I’m still in this business and that you are still putting up with me,” White said at the 2018 Emmy Awards ceremony. “It’s incredible that you can stay in a career this long and still have people put up with you. I wish they did that at home.”

White was a recipient of many Emmys throughout her career, including two for her Mary Tyler Show character, Sue Anne Nivens, her role on the popular sitcom The Golden Girls, and even an Emmy for her appearance as a host and actress on Saturday Night Live.

White’s sense of humor, intelligence, and general likability helped make her popular even with younger costars and fans. In 2011, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that she was the most trusted American celebrity with an 86% likability rating.

In addition to her work in television, White is also notable for other reasons, including an early stand against racist attitudes in the 1950s. Some southern television stations threatened to boycott her variety show, The Betty White Show, over the recurring presence of black entertainer and tap dancer Arnold Duncan.

“I’m sorry, but, you know, he stays. Live with it,” White stated when she learned of the threat in 1954. Duncan would later become a part of another long-running and more popular variety show, The Lawrence Welk Show, after his start on White’s show as possibly the first black man to have a recurring role on a show. He was kept unaware of the controversy.

Minutes after news emerged of her death, U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters: “That’s a shame. She was a lovely lady.” 

The cause of her death has not yet been released.