SYRACUSE — When longtime “60 Minutes” correspondent Mike Wallace passed away last month, he was remembered for his reputation as a “bulldog” in journalism, grilling newsmakers with tough questions. What many Central New Yorkers may not realize, is that the original notes from Wallace’s earliest interviews are on file right here in town.
The details are in today’s Syracuse Post-Standard. Reporter Michelle Breidenbach describes some of the gems she found within eleven boxes of personal papers Wallace donated to Syracuse University in the mid 1960s. The papers are available to anyone who wants to review them, as part of the Special Collections Research Center at SU’s Bird Library.
Although the papers come from interviews Wallace conducted for shows on a local TV station in New York City, before “60 Minutes” started, Wallace still had some very notable names for the time: Breidenbach’s article includes a scan of three pages from Wallace’s interview with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at a time when King’s efforts to promote racial equality were still referred to as a “new movement” to many Americans.
The article also includes three scanned pages of Wallace’s interview with popular black entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., who had recently married a white woman — at a time when interracial marriage was still illegal in many states. Wallace was known for quizzing guests on racial relations, politics and religion, at a time when many other broadcasters might shy from such hot topics.
From Breidenbach’s report, it seems the collection is worth a closer look not only for aspiring broadcast journalists and fans of Wallace’s work, but for anyone interested in examining life in America during the early 1960s. In addition to scripts and interview notes, she says the collection includes viewer mail, Broadway theatre programs, and various magazine and newspaper clippings.
Considering the generous donation, and Syracuse University’s reputation of producing many of the nation’s top broadcasters, some might assume Wallace attended SU, but he didn’t. He’s a graduate of the University of Michigan.