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Betty White, Actor and Comedian, Dies at 99

Published by: Carolyn Brooks Fleming on Dec 31, 2021.

Betty White, actor and comedian, died on December 31, 2021, at the age of 99. She would have celebrated her 100th birthday on January 17, with a planned movie event called “Betty White: 100 Years Young — A Birthday Celebration.”

White began her career in the 1940s, in the glory days of radio. She lent her voice to shows including “Blondie,” “The Great Gildersleeve,” and “This Is Your FBI,” and she even hosted her own program, “The Betty White Show.”

She moved to television in 1949, cohosting a variety show called “Hollywood on Television” with Al Jarvis. Three years later, after Jarvis left, White hosted the show solo and earned her first Emmy nomination.

White’s first scripted show was “Life with Elizabeth” (1952–1955), which she produced. Over the decades she created hilarious and memorable characters on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (1970–1977), “The Betty White Show” (1977–1978), “The Golden Girls” (1985–1992), and “Hot in Cleveland” (2010–2015). In addition, she had smaller roles and cameos on many other shows. And who can forget her Super Bowl ad for Snickers?

White was married twice before she achieved fame as an actress, to a fighter pilot and an agent, but the love of her life was her third husband, television personality Allen Ludden. He hosted the game show “Password,” and White appeared as a celebrity guest. She once said, “The secret to our marriage was enthusiasm. When I knew Allen was coming home, I would freshen my makeup and put on a new blouse.” Ludden died of stomach cancer in 1981, and White never remarried.

White won five Primetime Emmy Awards, including one for an unforgettable hosting appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in 1975. While many of her roles were somewhat sticky-sweet, White’s true humor was edgier: “Well, I mean, if a joke or humor is bawdy, it's got to be funny enough to warrant it. You can't just have it bawdy or dirty just for the sake of being that — it's got to be funny.”

Growing up as an only child in Oak Park, Illinois, she learned to love animals. Her parents frequently brought new pets home to join their human family of three. “Both my mother and father were tremendous animal lovers,” she said. “They imbued in me the fact that, to me, there isn’t an animal on the planet that I don’t find fascinating and want to learn more about.”

White has worked with the Los Angeles Zoo, the Morris Animal Foundation, the Los Angeles ASPCA, and The Seeing Eye guide dog school. She once said, “Thankfully, my work makes it possible for me to support and volunteer my time with many different animal welfare organizations.”

What was the key to her longevity? She once said, “My favorite food is hot dogs with French fries. And my exercise: I have a two-story house and a very bad memory, so I’m up and down those stairs.”

Betty White passed away at her home in Brentwood, California.

To learn more, view these quotes by Betty White.