By Thomas Sellers Jr.
This upcoming Monday is going to be a National Holiday because of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Honoring the legacy and impact of the Civil Rights icon was going to be joined by a centennial celebration of American legend Betty Marion White. But as we all know, our beloved Betty White passed away Dec. 31 at the tender age of 99.
Obviously the most impactful passing of 2021 was White’s. There are publications that missed out on her untimely death like The Best Sellers’ List to end 2021.
Currently on newsstands are magazines dedicated to the great career of the iconic White. They all wanted to get an early jump on her 100 years on this earth. Not too many people are saying those magazines are silly because we love Betty White so much.
Now those publications are a tribute to White and her lasting legacy on television, entertainment and most importantly — society.
White was born in 1922 in Oak Park, Ill., and embarked on her television/radio career shortly after. She began her journey to our hearts behind the microphone on radio reading commercials and voicing parts.
By 1939, White had her first television role when she sang on The Merry Widow. Then a common theme started in 1951 with White being nominated for an Emmy — for the comedy “Life With Elizabeth.” White was one of the first five female nominees in the award’s history.
For the many historic feats of White and pure talent, she was a trailblazer. Over the last decade of her life, the public showered White with flowers. White was awarded the Guinness World Record for Longest TV Career for a Female Entertainer in 2014. Now my challenge this week is to pay tribute to that distinguished career with just 10 of her impactful accomplishments.
10. Another Emmy Award
Back in 2018, White was 96-years-old and still in good health. She attended that year’s Emmy Awards and was honored for being one of the oldest winners in the awards show’s history.
White stood on the stage to accept her award and said, “Little did I dream then that I would be here and it’s incredible that I’m still in this business, that you’re still putting up with me. I’m thanking you. It’s incredible that you can stay with a career this long and still have people put up with you. I wish they did that at home!”
9. Star of the show
White finally got her own sitcom, “The Betty White Show,” in 1977. Joined by costars John Hillerman and Georgia Engel the show has a short run with just one season.
8. Real-life love story
It depends on what genre or era you grew up in on how you identify Betty White. If you were growing up in the 1960s, you knew White as a game show star. In 1963, White married TV personality Allen Ludden. Ludden was her third husband after Army pilot Dick Barker and Hollywood agent Lane Allen.
White was more compatible with Ludden because they both had entertainment careers. The couple appeared in several shows/game shows including “Password,” “The Odd Couple,” and “Match Game.” Ludden passed away with stomach cancer in 1981. They had no children together, but she was the stepmother of his three children from a previous marriage. White never remarried after Ludden’s death.
7. Program starter
Betty White is a legend in the industry for multiple reasons. White co-founded Bandy Productions along with writer George Tibbles and producer Don Fedderson in 1952. She went on to create and star in “Life With Elizabeth.” That show had a two year run from 1953 to 1955. Up next for her was the role of Vicki Angel on “Date with the Angels” in 1957.
6. Parades of honor
During the time she was shaping her television career, White became a consistent personality from 1956 to 1974 with hosting duties. With her style of humor taking shape, White earned the hosting responsibilities for the annualTournament of Roses Parade for NBC. Then NBC replaced her in 1975. CBS took advantage of her availability by hiring White to host the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for CBS. For nearly 20 years White helped many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day.
5. My intro to White
“Mama’s Family” was the TV show that sent me to bed as a child. Once that theme song blasted from our family TV it was time for me to go to slumber. I only got glimpses of White as Ellen Harper Jackson on the popular comedy. Vicky Lawrence (Thelma) was the star of the show and it was a spinoff from “The Carol Burnett Show.” White was on “Mama’s Family” from 1983 to 1986 portraying a role as Thelma’s snobby daughter on the show. When it was picked up in syndication in 1985, White left, making just one last appearance in 1986.
White made her departure for greener… more golden pastures. While on “Mama’s Family” White worked with future costars Rue McClanahan and Bea Arthur.
4. Moore Success
Most U.S. Americans fell in love with Moore in the 1970s on a vehicle called “ The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” White brought to life the character Sue Ann Nivens. Nivens was memorable as the judgmental, boy-crazy and frequent nemesis of Mary.
Nivens won White back-to-back Emmys. She was one of the most iconic and defining characters in television history.
3. Animal lover
White’s union with Ludden sparked a lasting romance and the couple brought their passion for saving animals to the public. For the longest time, White was known as a champion for animal rights. She was an animal rights activist and has been on the Board of Directors at the Los Angeles Zoo since 1974.
White authored books like Betty White’s Pet-Love: How Pets Take Care of Us and Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo. Maybe that kindness and gentleness she experienced with those animals helped her shape her most defining television character of all time.
2. Career Resurgence
Younger people and children are mourning the loss of White too because she was more than just a meme. Back in 2010, the Snickers Super Bowl Commercial “You’re not you when you’re Hungry” campaign rocketed White back on the television scene.
After her career went into hibernation in the late 1990s and early millennium, White started popping up everywhere like “Bob, Maybe This Time,” “Ladies Man,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “That ‘70s Show,” and “Ally McBeal.” She even did the horror film “Lake Placid.”
Back to that Snickers commercial, that 30 seconds sparked an online campaign to get White to host Saturday Night Live. The more than 500,000 involved in the campaign were rewarded in May 2010 with White hosting the sketch show. Then over the next few years White stayed a consistent presence on our TV’s, phones and computer devices.
1. Last Golden Girl
Rose Nylund came into our minds and hearts in 1985 and will never leave. She was portrayed by Betty White for 8 years for a total of 204 episodes.
White landed the role of the naive and sometime conning Rose on the legendary “The Golden Girls,” and was a part of the best quartet in TV history. Alongside McClanahan, Arthur and Estelle Getty, the run from 1985 to 1992 was pure gold. White earned four Golden Globe nominations and one Emmy win.
White ended up living longer than the rest of her Golden Girls costars after McClanahan passed away in 2010. We held onto our Rose as long as we could. But God was ready to dip her in gold.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to email@example.com.