Vivienne Nearing, 81; a contestant caught in TV quiz show scandal

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From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Vivienne Nearing, 81, one of the contestants caught in the television quiz show scandal of the 1950s, died July 4 of adrenal cancer in East Hampton, N.Y., the New York Times reported Sunday.

Nearing, a lawyer, became a media celebrity in 1957 when she defeated Charles Van Doren as champion on the popular NBC quiz show “Twenty-One.” In four appearances on the NBC program, she won $5,500 before being defeated.

In 1960, Nearing and 13 other contestants were charged with second-degree perjury for lying to a grand jury and denying they had been fed answers on the programs. Although Nearing told the truth in a second grand jury appearance and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor perjury, she was convicted and disbarred for six months in 1962.


She later reestablished her legal career and worked at Stroock, Stroock & Lavan, a New York-based firm, eventually attaining the rank of senior partner.

A native of New York City, Nearing earned her bachelor’s degree in economics at Queens College and a master’s and law degrees from Columbia University, the Times reported.