By: Skyler Johnson
TV icon Betty White has passed away due to natural causes in her home in Brentwood, California. She was 99 years old, 17 days from becoming a centenarian.
White is widely considered to be a “national treasure.” Her presence was a fixture in the television and movie industry with a career spanning seven decades. Her first time working in entertainment was a recording at a radio station in 1930 when she was eight years old. Originally hoping to become a park ranger, she found her love of performance and was a radio talent in the mid-1940s. Soon after, she transitioned to television with a daily live variety series: Hollywood on Television with Al Jarvis, which aired for five and a half hours, six days a week for four years, cementing White as a daily presence for Americans.
She later became widely known for series’ such as Life With Elisabeth, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and various others. She had four incarnations of The Betty White Show, a talk show hosted by herself, each being short-lived. She’s arguably best known for Golden Girls, a series following older single women in Miami, which lasted from 1985-1992. White received critical acclaim for her role as sweet, naïve Rose Nylund. She was also in Hot in Cleveland, which lasted from 2010-2015. She was 93 by the time the show ended.
A producer on Life With Elisabeth, she was the first woman to have a major voice in the television industry. Among her many accolades, White won five Primetime Emmy Awards, two Daytime Emmy Awards, a Grammy award, three American Comedy Awards, and many more. White is the only woman to have received an Emmy in all performing comedic categories and holds the record for longest span between Emmy nominations for performances – her first was in 1951 and her last was in 2014 – a span of over 60 years.
White was a popular contestant and host for several game shows. She was on programs such as Match Game, Password and To Tell the Truth. She became the first woman to garner a Daytime Emmy when she hosted Just Men! In 1983.
White was an adamant supporter of LGBT rights and POC rights. Many Southern television stations boycotted the second incarnation of The Betty White Show due to the inclusion of a Black cast member, Arthur Duncan. Not only did she keep the character in the show, she raised his screen time and made a public statement telling naysayers: “Live with it.” An avid friend of closeted homosexual Liberace, she once said directed at homophobes: “Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.” Additionally, White dedicated significant philanthropic energy to animal rights causes.
Many people spoke out on her death, including President Joe Biden, who called her a “lovely lady” and a “cultural icon.” Many other celebrities commented on her passing, including Ryan Reynolds, Sandra Bullock, Conan O’Brien, and country musicians Bill Anderson and Naomi Judd. Anderson stated, “I had the privilege of working alongside Betty White on many occasions back in my game show days of the late ’70s and early ’80s. We appeared together on Match Game, Tattletales, and Password Plus, and she always went out of her way to make me feel welcome. She kept us all laughing with her incredible sense of humor, while at the same time always performing as the consummate professional. I feel so honored to have known her.” Judd stated, “Betty and I worked together at American Humane Association. We shared our passion rescuing abused animals. She may have looked like she’d just come from a bridge party, but then she’d crack a joke with a sexual innuendo. She was one of my role models. I also knew her late husband, Alan Luden when I was a contestant on Password.”
White had no children of her own, but is a stepmom to three children: David, Martha, and Sarah. Much beloved as an American pop culture icon, Betty White will certainly be missed.