"The Westmoreland affair, professionally and personally, was one of the most difficult times of my life," Wallace told the Chicago Tribune in 1989. "It was just devastatingly difficult because my integrity was put to question, and as a reporter, that's the single most important thing you've got."

The 1984 trial triggered Wallace's first bout of clinical depression, and he tried to kill himself by swallowing sleeping pills. He publicly admitted to the suicide attempt during the "60 Minutes" tribute to him in 2006.

"I wrote a note. And Mary found it," he said, referring to Mary Yates, a longtime friend who would become his fourth wife. "And she found the pills that I was taking on the floor. I was asleep."

With the support of Yates, Wallace got the help he needed to treat his depression. He began seeing a psychiatrist and taking antidepressants, Wallace wrote in his 2005 memoir "Between You and Me."

He suffered two subsequent bouts of depression when he went off his medication, according to a 2006 Baltimore Sun story. A broken wrist and turning 75 might have contributed to the episodes, he said.

An interest in helping others cope with the illness led Wallace to speak widely about his depression. He became a spokesman for the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression and also appeared in "Dead Blue," a 1998 documentary about depression directed by his stepson, Eames Yates.

As a journalist, Wallace found himself at the center of another controversy while interviewing a Los Angeles banker in 1981 about lien contracts that could cause poor minorities to lose their homes. Thinking he was off-camera, Wallace made a wisecrack about reading contracts over "watermelon or the tacos" that enraged the black and Latino communities. Wallace publicly apologized, noting he had a reputation for ethnic jokes, including cracks about his own Jewish race.

In 1995, Wallace sparred with CBS executives over the network's initial refusal to air his report on tobacco whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand. The episode became the subject of the 1999 film "The Insider," which alleged that CBS News delayed airing the report because it feared a debilitating lawsuit.

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 the University of Michigan, Wallace wandered into the school's broadcast center and found his metier. After graduating in 1939, Wallace got jobs in radio in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Detroit and was a communications officer in the Navy for three years during World War II.

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 a shelf of Emmys.

He also started a family, marrying college sweetheart Norma Kaphan, who gave him his only children, 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, stepson Eames Yates and grandchildren.

Partly because he was sensitive about childhood acne scars, Wallace had planned to pursue a career in radio but found himself on television in 1949 — as an actor playing a police lieutenant — in the short-lived ABC show "Stand by for Crime." He also acted on Broadway in the 1954 comedy "Reclining Figure."

He 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."