Betty White: The First Lady of Television

On New Year’s Eve of 2021, renowned television icon Betty White passed away just seventeen days shy of celebrating her one hundredth birthday on January 17, 2022. In remembrance of the First Lady of Television, here is a brief overview of her amazing life. 

The Early Years

Betty White was born on January 17, 1922, making her the best thing before sliced bread. Although the TV was not invented until 1927, Betty White has her first recorded performance was on a radio broadcast at just five years old. The broadcast was called “Empire Builders,” and it aired in 1931, where she voiced a crying baby on a train. In 1937, Betty White co-founded the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.  


During WWII, White joined the American Women’s Voluntary Services with the United States Army. She married her first husband, Dick Barker, but it lasted less than a year because she did not want to live in Ohio and raise chickens. In 1947, she married her second husband, Lane Allen, but that also ended in divorce when he wanted her to give up her career. In 1951, The 3rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards aired, and White was nominated for Best Actress but lost to Gertrude Berg. From 1952-1955, White starred in a comedy series called “Life With Elizabeth.” Despite opposition by racists, White refused to fire a black tap dancer named Arthur Duncan from her show. Consequentially the show was canceled, but she did not give in to the racism. 


In 1961, Betty White guest-starred and hosted “Password” where she met Allen Ludden. White and Ludden got married on June 14, 1963, making Ludden her third husband. Furthering her television career, Betty White was the hostess and commentator of the “Tournament of Roses Parade” for nineteen years! Betty White had another TV show that ran for 31 episodes called “Pet Set,” where she talked to famous people about their pets. 

In 1973, Betty White joined the cast of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” as the “Happy Homemaker” with Sue Ann Nivens as host. In 1975 and again in 1976, White won the Emmy for Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actress for Sue Ann Nivens. 


Betty White played Thelma’s sister, Ellen, on “Mama’s Family” from 1983-1985. From 1985-1992 White starred as Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls.” In 1986, she won an academy award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in “The Golden Girls.” In 1987, Betty White was the guest on “This Is Your Life.” White was there when her husband received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988. He had received it posthumously as he passed away from cancer just a year later in 1981. 

In 1991, she received an honorary degree from West Virginia College. Four years later, White faced her friend, comedienne Carol Burnett, on “Family Feud.” Once “The Golden Girls” was canceled, Betty White starred in “The Golden Palace,” but it only lasted one season. 

The Last Twenty Years

In 2005, White started as the titular role in “Annie’s Point.” In 2010, she played in a Snickers commercial that aired during the Superbowl and starred as Elka in “Hot in Cleveland.”  Then in 2011 at age 88, she became the oldest woman ever to host “Saturday Night Live.”  In 2012, she did a “Camera Camera” style show called “Betty White’s Off Their Rocker,” where senior citizens play pranks on younger people. In 2013, she earned the Guinness Book Award Record for longest TV career. Two years later, she won the Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award.Betty White, The First Lady of Television, had truly an amazing life. Many people, including myself, took her death very hard. It seemed as though she would live forever, but that’s how life works; no one knows when they or someone they love will pass on. I encourage everyone to hug someone today in honor of Betty White and hug your pets too; after all, she too was an animal lover!