Betty White: From Sliced Bread to Social Media

A brief history on the icon and legend

Betty White, an American TV actress and philanthropist, was an icon of peace and spreader of joy. 

White was born January 17, 1922 B.S.B, before sliced bread, as an only child to Christine Tess and Horace White. Mr. White was a lighting company executive, who, during the era of the Great Depression, built and traded crystal radios as a source of income for the family. 

Betty White attended Horace Mann Elementary, as well as Beverly Hills High school from which she graduated in 1939.  White had a particular affinity for wildlife and had dreams of becoming a park ranger. Unfortunately, these positions were not available to women at the time.

White was more than just a TV actress, she was a radio show host as well. Her repertoire includes Blondie, This Is Your FBI and the Betty White Show. She made five dollars a show, which is about 77 dollars in today’s currency. It was not until 1949 that she appeared on her first television show with Al Jarvis. The show, titled Hollywood on Television, is where she would sing and entertain over the next five and a half years, even after Al Jarvis’ departure from the show in 1952. 

Best known for her award-winning role in “Golden Girls,” White also obtained several other accolades over the course of her television and radio show career. After her first Emmy nomination in 1951 for “Best Actress,” she went on to win five Primetime Emmy Awards, two Daytime Emmy Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and is the only woman in history to have received an Emmy in all performing comedic categories. 

Among other awards, White was honored by the USDA Forest Service as an honorary forest ranger, fulfilling her childhood dream. She was awarded an honorary degree and white doctor’s coat by Washington State University’s Veterinary Medical Association. In addition, when she was 95 years old, she became the oldest new member to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

As a philanthropist, Betty White focused on a variety of different areas, but is best known as an advocate for racial justice and reform, as well as a generous patron of animal welfare. 

In 1954, the Betty White Show was the first television show to feature an African American performer, tap dancer Arthur Duncan. In response to the threats by radio companies to take the show off-air, White told producers to “live with it.”  A bold, swift move towards justice at a time of such tension. 

Betty White had always held animal welfare close to her heart and her interest peaked in the 1970’s when she hosted The Pet Set. This was a show that showcased celebrities and their beloved pets. She was a member of the board of directors for the Greater Los Angeles Zoo for many years beginning her membership in 1974. She was also a generous donator to the zoo, and donated over 100,00 dollars in just April 2008. 

It goes without saying; Betty White was an American influencer of her own right. Her passing, just two short weeks before her 100th birthday, has been felt by millions both at home and overseas. Her innate kindness and generosity was a light to all those who knew her, listened to her, or watched her. Her passions inspired many, and her philanthropic endeavors continue to burn brightly even still. However old she became, she never ceased on her personal journey as an actress, philanthropist, influencer and honorary forest ranger. 

In remembrance of Betty White; 1922-2022. Born before sliced bread, immortalized by the American media.