Betty White’s infectious energy and positive outlook made her a favorite entertainer among fans of all ages. Here are 13 things you might know about this delightful who left us just over two weeks short of her 100th birthday:
1. White was born Betty Marion White in Oak Park, Illinois, on January 17, 1922. Her parents named her Betty, not Elizabeth, so she wouldn’t have to deal with all the other nicknames the name Elizabeth fosters.
2. As a child, White aspired to be a forest ranger, but at the time, that position was not open to women.
3. White made her show business debut in 1930 when, at the age of eight, she portrayed an adopted child on the radio drama Empire Builders.
4. During World War II, White served as a volunteer for the American Women’s Voluntary Services, driving a PX truck to distribute military supplies.
5. Over the course of her career, White starred on four different programs called The Betty White Show:
The first was a radio program that aired in the late 1940s.
The second, a daily talk and variety show that debuted in 1954, featured among its cast members an African-American performer named Arthur Duncan. White, who had creative control over the show, was pressured by some stations in the south to remove Duncan from the show, but she refused. The show was cancelled later that year.
The third came in 1958, when her sitcom Date with the Angels failed in the ratings. White then revived her talk and variety show in order to complete her contract with ABC.
Finally, in 1977, White starred in a short-lived sitcom called The Betty White Show that aired on CBS.
6. Allen Ludden, to whom she was married from 1963 until his death in 1981, was White’s third husband. After he passed, she never considered remarrying and once said to journalist Larry King, “Once you’ve had the best, who needs the rest?” She and Ludden met when she was a celebrity panelist on his popular game show, Password.
7. White frequently appeared on game shows from the 1950s through the ’80s, including I’ve Got a Secret, To Tell the Truth, What’s My Line?, The Match Game, and, of course, Password, among countless others. In 1983, White became the first woman to be awarded the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Game Show Host for her show, Just Men!
8. White was once offered an anchor role on the Today show. She declined because she didn’t want to move from California to New York City. The job eventually went to Barbara Walters.
9. White was a passionate advocate and activist for the welfare of animals, working with such organizations as the Los Angeles Zoo Commission, the Morris Animal Foundation, the African Wildlife Foundation, and Actors & Others for Animals. In the early 1970s, White produced and hosted a syndicated series called The Pet Set, which focused celebrities and their pets.
10. In January 2010, following White’s appearance on a popular commercial that aired during the Super Bowl, a campaign was launched on Facebook calling for White to host Saturday Night Live. The FB page had amassed nearly 500,000 followers when NBC announced that White would indeed host the show on May 8 of that year. At 88, White was (and remains) the oldest person to have ever hosted that popular program.
11. White has received seven Emmy Awards and holds the record—60 years—for the longest span between her first Emmy nomination for a performance (a Regional (LA) Emmy in 1952) and her most recent, which came in 2011. Among her Emmys is the 2015 Daytime Emmy for Lifetime Achievement.
12. White was the author of 11 books. Her first was Betty White’s Pet-Love: How Pets Take Care of Us, published in 1983, and her most recent was Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo (2011).
13. In 2010, at the age of 88, White was chosen as the Associated Press’s Entertainer of the Year, and in 2011, in a poll conducted by Reuters and Ipsos, she was named “the most popular and most trusted celebrity among Americans,” besting the likes of Denzel Washington, Sandra Bullock, and Tom Hanks.