Born Myron Leon Wallace on May 9, 1918, in Brookline, Mass., he was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Frank and Zina Wallace. His father ran a wholesale grocery business.
At Chicago's WGN radio in the 1940s, he got his first opportunity to do one-on-one interviews, the format that was to be his life work and earn him 21 Emmys, five DuPont-Columbia journalism awards and five Peabody Awards.
He married college sweetheart Norma Kaphan, and they had two sons, Peter and Christopher. After divorcing in 1948, he wed Buff Cobb, an actress he met while interviewing her on WGN.
The couple moved to New York and CBS where they had an early-1950s radio and television talk show, "Mike and Buff." The show ended in 1953, two years before the marriage did.
His next marriage, to artist Lorraine Perigord, lasted 28 years.
In 1986, he wed Yates, the widow of his longtime producer Ted Yates, who was killed in 1967 covering the war in the Middle East. She survives him, as do his son Chris, stepdaughter Pauline Dora, stepsons Eames and Angus Yates, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Wallace started doing commercials in the mid-1950s, which later caused news executives to question his credibility as an objective reporter. One of his first contracts was to promote Procter & Gamble's Golden Fluffo shortening.
In 1955, he landed a TV news anchor job with the Dumont network's New York affiliate. The next year, Wallace faced his first guest, New York Mayor Robert Wagner, on the pioneering interview show "Night Beat."
The program "was a radical departure from the usual pablum of radio and television interviews," Wallace wrote in his memoir. It was "nosy, irreverent, often confrontational."
Critics started calling him "Mike Malice."
In its second season, the show began airing weekly as "The Mike Wallace Interview" on ABC.
Wallace faced his first defamation suit in 1957 on the ABC program when his guest, mobster Mickey Cohen, "filled the air with an outburst of vicious slander" against then-Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker, Wallace wrote in his memoir. Parker settled his $2-million suit for $45,000.
After that, Lloyd's of London agreed to insure the show only if a lawyer sat across from Wallace during interviews holding cue cards printed "be careful," "stop" or "retreat."
Because of friction with ABC executives, Wallace left the network in 1958 and returned to local television in New York and a weekday interview show.
He covered the 1960 presidential race for Westinghouse and did an around-the-world interview series that introduced him to Vietnam.
In 1961, Wallace had a talk show called "PM East" for Westinghouse and was still regularly doing commercials, for Parliament cigarettes and others.
The death of his 19-year-old son, Peter, in a hiking accident in Greece in 1962 made Wallace vow to devote himself solely to serious journalism.
Peter had hoped to pursue a news career. Wallace's younger son, Chris, also went into broadcast journalism and is the host of "Fox News Sunday."