The late Barbara Walters died a happy woman—not because she had several million dollars or crowds of admirers, but because the love of her adopted daughter was with her to the very end—close to her not by blood, but by heart.
Barbara Walters was a renowned news anchor with a broadcasting career spanning more than 60 years. Her long-lasting career in television first took off when she covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
The television personality came on air to report the incident from New York City, and she became one of the longest-serving journalists ever to do it. NBC news anchors Jack Lescoulie, Hugh Downs, and Barbara Walters reporting on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 23, 1963 ┃Source: Getty Images
Before becoming the face of ABC news, Walters started behind the scenes by working as a writer and researcher for NBC’s “Today” show. She worked her way up in the network throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
Walters made her mark as a trailblazer by being the first female to become the program’s co-host. She later left the network to join its rival, ABC, in 1976, getting a job on the “Evening News” program.
Making history again, the Massachusetts native became the first woman to anchor a news show. Soon after, Walters became a regular contributor and a host of ABC’s “20/20” news program and was a fixture there for years.
Broadcasters Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters on the set of the news program “20/20” on October 1, 1999 ┃Source: Getty Images
Besides her extensive work profile on television, Walters’ love life is just as interesting. She married four times in her lifetime and dated some well-known public figures.
The list includes McCarthy-era attorney Roy Cohn, US Senator John Warner, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Senator Edward Brooke, and Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Neil Butler.
Walters first married at age 26 to Robert Katz (the son of a wealthy baby cap manufacturer) in 1955. He was five years her senior, and she was the last of her roommates to get hitched in college.
Barbara Walters attends the Museum of Television and Radio Gala Honoring Alan Alda and Barbara Walters at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on February 8, 1996 in New York City. ┃Source: Getty Images
The bride-to-be invited all her roommates to her extravagant wedding and later had an intimate ceremony where they were snubbed from the guest list.
Within a few months, the newlyweds realized their union was a mistake, and they had it annulled in less than a year. It later became apparent that the marriage left a bitter taste for Walters, who never talked about her first husband again and even considered him a taboo subject.
“The View” host later met her second husband, Lee Guber, at a bash. Guber, a theatrical producer, was considered the most eligible bachelor, although he had been married with kids. He was rich and good-looking and had a thing for intelligent, attractive women.
It appeared Walters was the perfect match for him. Still, they had a five-year on-and-off relationship before she finally agreed to marry him in 1963.
Barbara Walters pictured sitting at home with her husband, theatre producer Lee Guber on January 1, 1966 in New York ┃Source: Getty Images
During that period, Walters’ career was gradually flourishing, and she had consistently turned down Guber’s marriage proposals until one day when he decided he could no longer take “no” for an answer and did something spontaneous. He arrived at her house in an NBC limo at eleven at night and asked her to marry him.
In a rushed ceremony, the couple tied the knot two weeks later, on December 9, 1963. However, they divorced in 1976 following 13 years of marriage.
Walters walked down the aisle for the third time when she married real estate developer Merv Adelson in 1981 before parting ways in 1984. The duo rekindled their romance when they wed for the second time in 1986, only to divorce in 1992.
Walters was a mother of one to her adopted daughter, Jacqueline Dena Guber, whom she shares with her second husband, Guber.
The doting mom dropped a bombshell on “The View” in September 2011 when she revealed for the first time that she had previously suffered pregnancy losses.
Guesting on the show at the time was Joe McGinniss, author of the controversial book, “Sarah Palin.” The book details the possibility of Palin’s youngest son not being hers, and Walters expressed she thought it was “the worst thing” about the book.
Unbeknown to her and stunning the rest of the hosts of the show, McGiniss candidly brought up the topic of her pregnancy, saying:
“Barbra, you’ve been pregnant, haven’t you? You’ve been in labor.”
“No, I haven’t [been in labor]. Do you want to get into my life? Just because you’ve brought it up. I’ve had three miscarriages, but I know what it’s like to be pregnant,” Walers disclosed.
How Walters & Guber Became Parents
Walters revealed during her appearance on “Oprah’s Master Class” on June 28, 2014, that she and her then-spouse, Guber, decided to adopt after facing multiple miscarriages.
The pair went on a double date with another couple, and that led to the adoption of their one and only child together, Jacqueline.
“We had dinner one night with a couple we really saw. And the woman said that she had a little girl, who was blond and blue-eyed, and they wanted to adopt a boy. And they had lawyers out of state who were looking for this little boy. They wanted a boy who was going to be tall and had blue eyes and fair head,” Walters recalled during the interview.
She further explained that the unidentified couple mentioned that they did not want a girl child, and that is when she and her husband made a bold decision:
“They didn’t want a girl. And we said we’ll take the girl. I named her Jackie after my sister. I adore my daughter, to know that you can have this kind of love that I feel for her.”
Walters and Guber’s daughter is now 54 years old. She was born on June 14, 1968. Walters has protected her child from the spotlight but admitted in May 2014 that her daughter struggled with her fame:
“Jackie has found it difficult all her life because she wants to be anonymous. She just doesn’t like to be a celebrity. She may be the only one in the world who doesn’t like to be a celebrity.”
All her life, Walters dedicated much of her time to her award-winning career. Interestingly enough, despite being one of the most well-known faces on TV, the birth of her child and her three miscarriages never made headlines.
“They were never reported. And I would take a couple of days off then and go back to work,” the prominent figure recounted at the time.
When she and Guber welcomed their baby daughter following five years of matrimony, there was no press release regarding the birth or any announcement. Walters explained why:
“[..]I didn’t want the biological mother to know that Jackie had been adopted by us. I just kept right on working.”
During those days, adoptive parents could keep it a secret. Moreover, Walters did not even go on maternity leave to bond with her newborn.
The TV pioneer explained that being a career woman and a mom was not yet a thing. “There was no having it all,” she revealed, adding:
“And there was not a career for women. I never thought about it. I didn’t think, ‘Can I juggle both?’ I probably should have.”
The “The View” creator and producer further stated that things were different in that parents could not bring their children to work and have their carers there while they focused on work.
Walters said when others found out that she had a baby, they wrote to her, and she once received mail that read: “We knew you were pregnant. We could see it on the air. [..] And I would write back and just say, ‘Isn’t it wonderful that we have this blessed event.’”
Even though she tried her best to keep the adoption news under wraps, Walters told her daughter as soon as she was old enough to understand.
“When she was a little girl, I said, ‘Well, there are two ways that a Mommy can have a baby,” Jacqueline chimed in, sharing how her mom broke the news to her:
“She used to say that some mothers have babies from their tummies, and some have it from their heart. And you came from my heart.”
Walters candidly spoke about her child’s father and revealed he had no ego as only one in the household was “enough.” She also touched on the perception that working women who wanted to stay home were considered “unhappy” and stated her daughter “fulfilled” her.
Walters also admitted that she felt guilty for spending less time with her daughter. Meanwhile, her spouse enjoyed spending time with their bundle of joy. Guber said:
“I teach her to stand on her head and hold her upside down, wrestle with her and throw her around, go for walks, and go swimming with her.”
In addition, Guber shared his opinion in September 1970 regarding the idea that women’s careers should be equal to men’s, saying, “Well, that wouldn’t work in our family. I don’t see life in that way.”
The doting dad revealed his wife used to be away from home for “ten days” at a time, and he understood that she had an obligation to work. However, he stated that if she were to relocate, she would have to choose between him and her career.
Walters said she, too, understood where he was coming from and would hate to see him uproot his life to another country because of her choices. She also expressed her appreciation for him and revealed he would cook dinner if she were too busy with work.
“Because he knows that my job is important to me. Lee does this because he is very masculine, very independent, and very secure,” Walters explained.
On December 2, 1979, Walters gushed about the couple’s daughter. “[..] She’s so sweet and funny and tall – she’s big enough to borrow my sweaters and shoes, and we have such fun shopping, biking, and going to the theater together.”
In her 2014 ABC retirement special, “Barbra Walters: Her Story,” the veteran broadcaster looked back on her motherhood journey. She revealed how she wanted her offspring to remember her when she died:
“I want to be remembered by my daughter as a good and loving mother.”
Despite loving every opportunity with her child, Jacqueline admitted she felt like she did not “fit” into her mom’s world. When she was a teen, she suffered from substance addiction and ran away from home. Meanwhile, her mother acknowledged that she could have done better while raising her:
“I was so busy with a career. It’s the age-old problem. I wish I had spent more time with my Jackie.”
Jacqueline Stood by Her Mom in Her Final Days
Walters divulged in 2014 that Jacqueline told her that when the time came she would have Alzheimer’s, she could go and live next door to her. “‘Not if you have Alzheimer’s but when you have Alzheimer’s,” the loving parent recalled, adding, “I take that as a loving compliment.”
In September 2017, a news report revealed Walters had been cooped up in her New York apartment and was not receiving any visitors. Insiders disclosed she started to become absent-minded and bewildered.
Walters avoided leaving her home as she feared falling and injuring herself. She isolated herself from everyone, including former ABC colleagues, and she only saw those she was close to over the years.
Even though she kept her distance from most people, she still had a trainer who came by every week. One source shared it became clear that old age had caught up with the famous newswoman.
In February 2020, Walters’ former co-host, Jenny McCarthy, revealed she sent her a card after learning she was going through a tough time. “I heard that she is in a place of not doing great, and I just talked to Sherri Shephard about it, and we’re sending some cards over to her,” said McCarthy, adding:
“That woman is a juggernaut that’ll just keep going no matter what.”
Walters co-hosted “The View” from 1997 to 2014. Her duration on the chat show came under scrutiny in April 2019 following McCarthy’s claims.
After the release of the tell-all “Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of ‘The View,” she claimed Walters screamed at her about autism for seven minutes.
Moreover, she alleged the acclaimed reporter wanted them to dress the same and was compelled to change her outfits to complement what her senior was wearing. “I was a human Barbie doll,” said McCarthy.
In contrast, comedian Rosie O’Donnell had nothing by praises for Walters once she learned she was having a hard time in old age, empathizing with her. O’Donnell believed Walters didn’t want to converse with anyone at that point in her life, explaining:
“I think she’s a wonderful woman, and it’s hard to age in America, never mind if you’re internationally famous.”
Walters sadly died on December 20, 2022, at her home in New York City at age 93. She was surrounded by her loved ones. The Hollywood star’s health had been declining over the years.
Before she passed, Walters had been scarce from the public eye as she had chosen to lead a private life, and her last public appearance was in 2016.
In the wake of her passing, her publicist Cindi Berger, stated: “She lived her life with no regrets. She was a trailblazer not only for female journalists but for all women.”
Walters, who was diagnosed with dementia, also shared that she would want her friends to remember her as a “loyal” companion.
“I want to be remembered, in television, maybe as a creator, maybe as a good newswoman. No. More than being remembered, I hope that by younger women, I can help them aspire,” said Walters.
A friend revealed the broadcast journalist and her daughter Jacqueline shared a “close bond.” Even though “they had their differences, Jackie was there for her in the end.”