In Memoriam: Betty White

by John Downey '23 on January 29, 2022
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

In Memoriam: Betty White

The World Mourns the Loss of the Beloved Actress and Animal Rights Activist

Claudia Fennell ’24

On Dec. 31, 2021, beloved actress Betty White passed away at the age of 99, just mere weeks away from what would have been her 100th birthday on Jan. 17. According to White’s death certificate, her cause of death was a stroke that occurred six days before she passed away. A stroke occurs when blood clots form and cause damage to the brain tissue. White’s friend and agent, Jeff Witjas, told E! News that the actress died peacefully in her sleep while she was at her home in Brentwood, CA.

  Despite White’s cause of death being confirmed as a stroke, some people have begun to spread theories across social media that her death was caused by the COVID-19 booster shot that she received three days before passing away. Witjas commented on these rumors as well; he stated to E! News that White died of natural causes and expressed that “her death should not be politicized—that is not the life she lived.”

  White enjoyed substantial popularity throughout the entirety of her 80-year-long career.. She was even awarded the title of the female entertainer with the longest television career by Guinness World Records. 

White grew up in Los Angeles and began her career in the 1940s acting on various radio shows. At this time, she also began appearing on television, in shows such as Life with Elizabeth and Hollywood on Television. Eventually, she became the host of the latter program. White also became a frequent guest on various game shows, especially Password, which was hosted by her third and final husband Allen Ludden. The couple was married for eighteen years, from 1963 until Ludden’s death in 1981. White’s agent expressed to People magazine that White did not fear death because she believed she would once again be reunited with her late husband whom she loved so dearly.

  In 1973, White first appeared on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a sitcom that earned her three Emmy Award nominations and two wins: one in 1975 and the other in 1976. White began acting in arguably her most famous television show, The Golden Girls, in 1985. The show followed the lives of four older women who lived together in Miami, with White playing one of these women, Rose Nylund. From The Golden Girls alone, White earned seven Emmy nominations and one win, which she took home in 1986. After the show ended in 1992, White made appearances on other popular programs such as That ’70s Show and Boston Legal.

  In the late 2000s, White experienced a resurgence in popularity when she appeared in The Proposal, in which she played Ryan Reynolds’s character’s grandmother. In 2010, she appeared in a Super Bowl commercial for Snickers that earned her even more popularity in mainstream media. One of her most famous television performances occurred in 2010, when she appeared on Saturday Night Live and became the show’s oldest host in history at the age of 88. She received an Emmy for best guest actress in a comedy series for her performance on the show.

  In addition to her work on television, White was an animal rights activist her entire life. She was involved in American Humane for over 60 years and became a national ambassador for the non-profit organization. In 2012, American Humane honored White with the National Humanitarian Medal, their highest honor, for a lifetime of advocating for animal welfare. White also served as a trustee and chair for the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association for over 40 years. Additionally, she was involved in other charitable organizations such as Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Endangered Wolf Center, and BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center. 

White has truly left behind a special legacy of both caring for people by making them laugh and caring for animals in her private and professional lives.