It's often been said that the scariest words in the English language were "Mike Wallace is here to see you."
The man who inspired that fear -- through his aggressive interviewing style that could resemble a cross-examination -- has died. The longtime "60 Minutes" correspondent was 93. A CBS spokesman says Wallace died last night at a care facility in Connecticut where he had lived in recent years.
His career spanned 60 years -- but he became best known after he was the first to be hired for "60 Minutes" when it went on the air in 1968. He became known as a reporter who spent hours preparing for interviews, and then putting his subject on the spot with a skeptical follow-up question.
He could be equally tough on public and private behavior -- grilling top Nixon White House aide John Erlichman as the Watergate scandal unfolded in 1973 -- and then, years later reducing Barbra Streisand to tears as he mocked her decades of psychoanalysis.
Among those who tried to take Wallace on in court was retired Gen. William Westmoreland, who sought $120 million for a 1982 documentary about the war in Vietnam. Westmoreland dropped the libel suit in 1985 after a long trial.
Wallace once said he didn't think he had an unfair advantage over his subjects. He said someone he interviews "lives with his subject matter every day. All I'm armed with is research."
Three-quarters of a century after Mike Wallace graduated from the University of Michigan, his name and his contributions live on at the Ann Arbor school.
Wallace came to Michigan from Brookline, Mass. He reported for the student-run newspaper The Michigan Daily and did radio work as well, graduating in 1939.
Wallace continued to befriend the university, lending support to the Knight-Wallace Fellowship program that gives mid-career journalists opportunities to explore subjects of interest to them.
Wallace donated the Wallace House to the program as a homelike gathering place for participants.
Wallace gave the Bentley Library his papers from the 1950s, and in 2006 he gave the school papers from his CBS career.
Key dates and events in the career of "60 Minutes" correspondent Mike Wallace:
-- 1940s: Wallace begins his news career as radio news writer for the Chicago Sun.
-- 1949: Wallace appears in a show called "Majority Rules" using his given name, Myron Wallace.
-- 1951: Wallace begins working at CBS.
-- 1950s: "Night Beat," a series of one-on-one interviews that first brought Wallace recognition for his style of questioning, begins airing on a local New York station. It later airs on ABC.
-- 1959: "The Hate That Hate Produced," a highly charged program that Wallace helped create about the Nation of Islam that was later criticized as biased and inflammatory, airs.
-- 1963: Wallace becomes a full-time newsman for CBS.
-- 1968: Wallace is hired when late CBS News producer Don Hewitt puts together staff of "60 Minutes."
-- 1970: Wallace wins first Peabody award at "60 Minutes" and second of five overall for the show's general excellence.
-- 1977-78: "60 Minutes" reaches top 10 in ratings for first time, where it remains for years.
-- 1979: During the Iranian hostage crisis, Wallace asks Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini what he thought about being called "a lunatic" by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Khomeini answers by predicting Sadat's assassination.
-- 1982: CBS airs a documentary that accuses retired Gen. William C. Westmoreland and others of deliberately underestimating enemy troop strength during the Vietnam War. Westmoreland sues Wallace and the network for libel. He later drops the lawsuit but only after years of legal wrangling. Wallace says the case brought on depression that put him in the hospital for more than a week.
-- 1999: "The Insider," a film based in part on a 1995 "60 Minutes" story about tobacco industry whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand, premieres. Christopher Plummer stars as Wallace, who was unhappy with the film, in which he was portrayed as caving to pressure to kill a story about Wigand.
-- 2006: Wallace retires as a regular correspondent for the show.
-- 2008: "60 Minutes" airs Wallace's last interview, with Roger Clemens on his alleged steroid use.