One can justifiably claim that the word “legendary” is being handled somewhat more recklessly in today’s world. If ever there was a person who perfectly fits this description, it would certainly be Sam Donaldson. During his impressive journalistic career, which spanned almost half a century, Sam was the face of ABC News and served as White House correspondent for three different American presidents
Born on March 11, 1934, in El Paso, Texas; Sam grew up in a family farm settlement in Chamberino, New Mexico Sam often talks about the fact that he was pumped into the New Mexico Military Institute because of his stubbornness and did not attend a regular high school like other teenagers.
He graduated from the New Mexico Military Institute in 1951 and joined the United States Army as an artillery officer in 1956, where he rose to the rank of captain in 1959. After completing his military service, he enrolled at what is now the University of Texas in El Paso, then known as Texas Western College, where he studied telecommunications.
His first broadcasting assignment was in 1959 for the CBS subsidiary KRLD-TV in Dallas, Texas. Sam left the job out of boredom and the need to move away from his home town. He moved to New York to apply for broadcast slots and initially did not find the job he expected.
His stay in Washington DC began in 1961 when he received an offer to join WTOP-TV, a CBS subsidiary. On WTOP-TV he covered President Kennedy’s funeral in 1963, the Goldwater presidential campaign in 1964, the passage of the Civil Rights Act by the Senate in 1964, and the Medicare Act in 1965.
In October 1967 he was lucky when he was hired by ABC News as a Washington correspondent. In 1968 and 1969, he reported on Democratic and Republican party conventions. He was also ABC’s chief correspondent for the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.
In 1972 he reported on the presidential campaigns of George McGovern and the successful candidacy 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 until the term of Ronald Reagan.
Sam Donaldson hosted the ABC Sunday Evening News from its inception in 1979 until August 1989, when he resigned from his roles as White House correspondent and host of the World News Sunday News and was named co-host of Primetime Live.
As the regular media evolved towards more Internet-based and digitally compatible forms, Sam adapted his craft when, after 10 years with Primetime Live, he took over the hosting of [email protected], the station’s first live Internet-only news show, from 1999-2001. For the next six years, starting in 2004, he hosted Politics Live on the digital network ABC News Now. Sam Donaldson resigned as a full-time employee of ABC News in February 2009.
After a career of 46 years, Sam Donaldson is as well-versed in the field of journalism as can be. He has worked for ABC and has risen through the ranks to the pinnacle of his career. During his active career, he has received numerous awards, including the Paul White Award, Radio Television Digital News Association. In 1997, Sam won the Edward R. Murrow Award at Washington State University. He has also won four Emmy Awards, three Peabody Awards, and the DePont Award in 2000. He has an estimated net worth of $40 million.
Sam Donaldson married Patricia Oates in 1954, with whom he married his first son Samuel Donaldson III. Sam and Patricia divorced in 1962. In second marriage he married Billie Kay Butler; the marriage lasted 16 years and they had three children. Thomas Donaldson, Robert Donaldson, and Jennifer Donaldson. Sam’s marriage to Billie broke up in 1980.
Later in life, Sam would take the blame for the divorce and say that he never had time for birthdays, anniversaries, and other family commitments. At the height of his powers, he left his house at 6:30 in the morning and returned at 1:00 in the morning – not your ideal recipe for a successful marriage.
Sam married Janice C. Smith in 1983 and was divorced in 2014 after 29 years together. They had no children together. In the same year (2014), Sam married Sandra Martorelli, with whom he allegedly was with during his marriage to Janice Smith.
Sam’s father Samuel Donaldson was a farmer in New Mexico, while his mother Chloe (nee Hampson) worked as a teacher. Not much is known about Sam Donaldson’s siblings except for 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, rumors of his death began to spread after his retirement. In 1995 Sam had a health scare when doctors removed a melanoma from his lymph node to treat cancer. After treatment, Sam used his time and resources as an ambassador in the fight against cancer.
Quick Facts About Sam Donaldson
- Sam Donaldson was the pioneering anchor of the now popular Sunday Evening News from ABC.
- He was ABC’s White House correspondent for three terms and reported on three different American presidents: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.
- In the course of his work, he has had close conversations with Gefahr. In 1981, during the assassination attempt on President Reagan, which was perpetrated on his life, he stood only two meters away from him.
- Sam’s father Samuel Donaldson Sr. died of a heart attack before Sam was born and left his upbringing to his mother Chloe.
- Member of the Kappa Sigma Brotherhood at the University of Texas-El Paso.