Since her death, fans have wanted to know more about Barbara Walters’ husbands and who she was married to before she died. Walters once said she wasn’t “very good at marriage” after four divorces—including twice to one husband.
Walters, whose full name was Barbara Jill Walters, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 25, 1929. She joined the TODAY show in 1961 as a writer and researcher before later becoming a correspondent. She made history in 1974 after she became TODAY‘s first female co-host and the first female co-host of a major news program in the United States. Walters left TODAY in 1976 and signed a $5 million, five-year contract with ABC, making her the highest-paid news anchor in the United States at the time, regardless of gender.
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Along with ABC Evening NewsWalters also went on to host shows like that 20/20 until she created The View, a daytime talk show with hosts of “different generations, backgrounds and views,” in 1997. The show, which Walters also co-hosted and executive produced, won her a Daytime Emmy Award in 2003 for Best Talk Show. Walters left The View in 2014 after 17 years of co-hosting the show. “I had to be here for your last show, to celebrate you, because of what you have meant to me,” guest Oprah Winfrey told Walters on her final episode. “You have literally meant the world to me. … Like everyone else, I want to thank you for being a pioneer and everything that word means. It means being the first; the first in the room to knock down the door, to break down the barriers, to pave the road that we all walk on. I thank you for that. And I thank you for the courage it took every day to get up and keep doing it.”
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After more than 60 years as a broadcast journalist, Walters died on December 30, 2022, at 93 years old. So who were Barbara Walters’ husbands and why did they divorce? Read on for what we know about Barbara Walters’ husbands and her three marriages before her death.
Who were Barbara Walters’ husbands? Read on for what to know about Walters’ three ex-husbands: Robert Henry Katz, Lee Guber and Merv Adelson.
Merv Adelson (1981 – 1984 & 1986 – 1992)
Merv Adelson was Barbara Walters’ third and last husband. Adelson, a television producer and the former CEO of Lorimar Television, met on a blind date and married in 1981. They divorced in 1984. Adelson and Walters went on to rekindle their relationship and married a second time in 1986 before divorcing again in 1992. “Merv was a kind and gentle man with a great sense of humor,” Walters told The New York Times in 2015. “We stayed friends long after our marriage.” Adelson died on September 9, 2015, of cancer. He was 85 years old.
In an interview on Oprah’s Master Class In 2014, Walters hinted that her busy career played a part in her three divorces. “Listen, I certainly haven’t been very good at marriage,” she said. “Maybe if he were also very busy… Marriages like that seem to work.” She continued, “I’ve always been attracted to men who were busy and successful in their own lives. And by the way, I do want to mention the one thing that has changed others’ perception of me: It’s The View. People realized I could be silly and funny. I had to think about whether being on that show would interfere with my interviews with heads of state. Would I still be able to do hard news? I’d been around long enough that I had the reputation, so I could do both.”
Lee Guber (1963 – 1976)
Lee Guber was Barbara Walters’ second husband. Guber, a theater owner and producer, and Walters married on December 8, 1963. They adopted their first and only child, a daughter named Jacqueline Dena Guber, in 1968. Jacqueline was born in June 1968 and was less than a year old when she was adopted. Walters and Guber named Jacqueline after Walter’s older sister, Jackie, who was born with mental disability issues and died of ovarian cancer in 1985.
“I had had three miscarriages and my husband and I decided that we would adopt a child,” Walters said in a 2014 interview on Oprah’s Master Class. “We had dinner one night with a couple we rarely saw and the woman said that she had a little girl who was blonde and blue-eyed, and they wanted to adopt a boy… who was going to be tall. They didn’t want the girl. So, we said, ‘We’ll take the girl!’” She continued, “Oh, I adore my daughter. To know that you’re going to have this kind of love that I feel for her. … I’m laughing because [she] said to me recently, ‘Mom, when you have Alzheimer’s, you can come down and live next to me.’ I take that as a very loving compliment.”
Walters and Guber divorced in 1976. Guber died in March 1988 of brain cancer. He was 67 years old. Walters and Jacqueline went on to have a difficult relationship. In an interview with NBC News in 2002, Jacqueline revealed that she struggled with her mother’s career and often felt like she didn’t “fit into her world.” “I think that somewhere inside you think, ‘Why did people give me up?’ I think that played a big, big part of it. I think that my mother being who she is played a huge part of it,” she said. “I never felt like I fit into her world. Because everybody else around me at that time when I was growing up wanted to get ahead and achieve and get ahead.”
She opened up about her drug abuse issues when she was younger, which started when she was 13 years old and “isolated” her further from her mother. “I was a runaway. I loved to run. I thought running would solve all my problems,” Jacqueline said at the time. “It was hard. I mean I went to school with all these cute, small, little, you know, adorable girls that were four-foot-two. And you know here I was this big, gangly girl.” She continued, “I did marijuana.” It was called crank then, but it’s now methamphetamines. Quaaludes were all over the place. Valium. And the drugs numbed all the other feelings. But it didn’t take away the issues that I had. They got bigger and bigger. I was more and more isolated from my mom’s world. And I thought running would solve all my problems.”
In her 2014 special, Barbara Walters: Her Story TV, Walters revealed that her busy career played a part in her relationship with Jacqueline. “I was so busy with a career. It’s the age-old problem,” she said. “And, you know, on your deathbed, are you going to say, ‘I wish I spent more time in the office?’ No. You’ll say, ‘I wish I spent more time with my family,’ and I do feel that way. I wish I had spent more time with my Jackie.” She continued, “I want to be remembered by my daughter as a good and loving mother.”
Robert Henry Katz (1955 – 1957)
Robert “Bob” Henry Katz was Barbara Walters’ first husband. Katz, a former Navy lieutenant and business executive whose family owned a children’s bonnets company, and Walters married at The Plaza Hoel in New York City, New York, on June 20, 1955, when Walters was 26 years old. They filed for divorce in 1957 and had their marriage annulled in 1958.
Walters nicknamed him Katz Hats and tried to break their engagement before the wedding because he bored her, but went through with the marriage at the insistence of her father, Latin Quarter nightclub owner Lou Walters, had already rented The Plaza Hotel ballroom and believed his daughter’s concerns were just normal bridal nerves, according to The Washington Post. “My heart never felt so heavy. But. . . my heart would be heavy every time I married,” Walters wrote in 1955 after her and Katz’s wedding, according to The Washington Post.
Buy: ‘Audition: A Memoir’ by Barbara Walters $15
For more about Barbara Walters, read her 2008 book, Audition: A Memoir. The New York Times bestseller takes readers through Walter’s life and groundbreaking career, from when she made history as the first female anchor on the TODAY show how she made a name for herself in the male-dominated broadcast industry as the host of shows like ABC Nightly News, 20/20 and The View, which she also created. The autobiography—which also follows Walter’s 50-plus-years of interviewing heads of state, world leaders, movie stars, criminals, murderers, inspirational figures and celebrities like Princess Diana, Katharine Hepburn and the Dalai Lama—is a “heartbreaking and honest, surprising and fun” story about the woman who interviewed some of the most interesting people in the world—and how she became one of them.
“Barbara Walters has spent a lifetime auditioning: for her bosses at the TV networks, for millions of viewers, for the most famous people in the world, and even for her own daughter, with whom she has had a difficult but ultimately quite wonderful and moving relationship. This book, in some ways, is her final audition, as she fully opens up both her private and public lives,” the publisher’s description reads.
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