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It’s fair to say the word legendary is being bandied about a bit more carelessly in today’s world. If there were ever a person perfectly suited to that description, it would definitely be Sam Donaldson. Over an impressive journalism career spanning nearly half a century, Sam was the face of ABC News, serving as White House Correspondent across three different American Presidents
Born March 11, 1934, in El Paso, Texas; Sam grew up on a family farm settlement in Chamberino, New Mexico. Sam often talks about how he was bundled off to the New Mexico Military Institute other than attending a regular High School like other teenagers because of his stubbornness.
He graduated from the New Mexico Military Institute in 1951 and joined the United States Army as an artillery officer in 1956 rising up to the rank of Captain in 1959. Upon the completion of his military assignment, he enrolled at the present day University of Texas at El Paso then known as Texas Western College where he studied Telecommunications.
His first broadcasting job was for CBS affiliate KRLD-TV in Dallas, Texas in 1959. Sam left the job out of boredom and a need to move out of his local city. He moved to New York in a bid to land broadcast jobs and did not initially find jobs as he expected.
His sojourn in Washington DC started in 1961 when he received an offer to join WTOP-TV, a CBS affiliate. At WTOP-TV, he covered President Kennedy’s funeral in 1963, the Goldwater Presidential campaign in 1964, the Senate’s passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Medicare bill in 1965.
In October 1967, He got his lucky break when he was hired by ABC News as a Washington correspondent. In 1968 and 1969, he covered the Democratic and Republican Party Conventions. He was also ABC’s main correspondent on the Vietnam War and the Watergate Scandal.
In 1972, he covered the Presidential campaigns of George McGovern and the successful bid of Jimmy Carter in 1976. When Jimmy Carter won the elections, Sam Donaldson was appointed ABC’s chief White House correspondent in 1977. He held this position all through to Ronald Reagan’s administration.
Sam Donaldson was the anchor of ABC’s Sunday Evening News from its inception in 1979 until August 1989. In 1989, he quit his role as the White House correspondent and as World News Sunday anchor and was named co-host of Primetime Live.
With the evolution of regular media into more internet based and digitally compliant forms, Sam adapted his craft when after 10 years with Primetime Live he began anchoring , the channels first internet-only live newscast, from 1999-2001. For the next six years starting from 2004 he was the host of Politics Live on the digital network ABC News Now. Sam Donaldson resigned as a full-time staff of ABC News in February 2009.
For a career that spanned 46 years, Sam Donaldson is as accomplished as it gets in the field of journalism. He has worked for ABC, rising through the ranks to the pinnacle of his career. He picked up numerous awards during his active days including the Paul White Award, Radio Television Digital News Association. In 1997, Sam won the Edward R. Murrow Award at the Washington State University. He has also amassed Four Emmy Awards, Three Peabody Awards and clinched the DePont Award in 2000. He has an estimated net worth of $40 million.
Sam Donaldson married Patricia Oates in 1954 with whom he had his first son Samuel Donaldson III. Sam and Patricia divorced in 1962. His second marriage was to Billie Kay Butler; the union lasted 16 years and they had three children. Thomas Donaldson, Robert Donaldson, and Jennifer Donaldson. Sam’s marriage to Billie fell apart in 1980.
Later in life, Sam would blame the divorce on himself saying he never had time for birthdays, anniversaries and other family engagements. At the peak of his powers, he left his home at 6:30 am and returned at 1:00 am – not your ideal recipe for a successful marriage.
Sam married Janice C. Smith in 1983 and divorced in 2014 after being together for 29 years. The didn’t have any children together. In the same year (2014) Sam married Sandra Martorelli whom he reportedly was seeing whilst married to Janice Smith.
Sam’s dad Samuel Donaldson was a farmer in New Mexico while his mother Chloe (née Hampson), was a school teacher. Not much is known about Sam Donaldson’s siblings other than his brother Tom who died in 1968.
Is Sam Donaldson Dead?
For someone who has been in the national consciousness for almost half a century, upon retirement, rumors of his demise began to swirl. In 1995, Sam had a health scare when Doctors removed a melanoma from the lymph node to treat cancer. After the treatment, Sam has committed his time and resources as an Ambassador in the fight against cancer.
Quick Facts About Sam Donaldson
- Sam Donaldson was the pioneer anchor of ABC’s now popular Sunday Evening News.
- He was ABC’s White House Correspondent for three terms covering three different American Presidents; Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.
- In the course of his work, he has had close calls with danger, In 1981, he was standing only six feet away from President Reagan during the assassination attempt on his life.
- Sam’s dad Samuel Donaldson Snr died of a heart attack before Sam was born, leaving his upbringing to his mum Chloe.
- Member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity at the University of Texas-El Paso.