As a prizewinner and historian, Gwen Ifill was an icon for many, and her life was of enormous significance. She was a news anchor, a best-selling author, and an award-winning journalist. On several occasions, she also had the privilege of moderating one of the most important debates in the American political cycle – the debates of the 2004 and 2008 vice presidents. We will talk below about her life, her partner, and the cause of her death, read on.
Gwen Ifill’s Profile & Life
Gwen was born on September 29, 1955, in Queens, New York City, and was the fifth child among six. Her father was Urcille Ifill Sr., an Episcopal minister of the African Methodists, while her mother was named Eleanor Ifill. Her mother came from Barbados and her father is a Panamanian of Barbadian descent. Her full name is Gwendolyn L. Ifill.
Ifill was on the road a lot because of her father’s ministry, the family moved around a lot and lived in Massachusetts and Buffalo, among other places. She attended a women’s college in Boston – Simmons College and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications in 1977. Her stay in the world of journalism began with an internship.
Ifill went to the Boston Herald-American to work as a reporter, with a focus on politics. The Baltimore Evening Sun was also another place where she worked for a while. Ifill switched to television coverage when she merged with NBC News in 1994 after working for major publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Gwen was a congressional correspondent for NBC and appeared on several political talk shows – Meet the Press was one such show. When PBS hired Ifill in 1999, she was asked to work on two separate shows, Washington Week and NewsHour With Jim Teacher. She was a senior correspondent and occasional newscaster for NewsHour and managing editor and host on Washington Week.
Gwen Ifill moderated the 2004 vice presidential debate between the Democratic candidate, Senator John Edwards, and Republican Vice President Dick Cheney on October 5, 2004, making her the first black woman to moderate a vice presidential debate. Four years later, in 2008, Ifill was commissioned to carry out the same mandate again, this time in a debate between the Republican governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, and the Democratic US Senator from Delaware, Joe Biden.
Prior to the debate, her objectivity was challenged by the publication of her book The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. The book was to be published on the day of the inauguration in 2009. Some said the book would present a conflict of interest, but as it turned out, Ifill carried the debate through and received praise for her performance. When Ifill and Judy Woodruff became co-chairs of the NewsHour in August 2013, they were the first women to host a Democratic presidential debate between Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton in February 2016. Ifill has served on the boards of several organizations, including the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.
To better demonstrate how much she is worth in her chosen field, Ifill has received a number of awards over the course of her life. In 2008 she won a Peabody Award and the following year Harvard University honored her with the First Amendment Award from the Ford Hall Forum. The National Association of Black Journalists accepted Gwen Ifill into their Hall of Fame in 2012. She has received more than 20 honorary doctorates from universities around the world, along with many other awards and recognitions.
Anyone who has seen Gwen would testify that she has never lacked charisma or a bright smile. However, with all the success and recognition Gwen received during her lifetime, she never even thought of getting married. She never married and had no children. Not many people know why she chose to remain unmarried in a world where marriage was revered over many things, but she led an exemplary life.
Death and Cause of Death
Gwen Ifill died on November 14, 2016, after a protracted battle with breast and uterine cancer, and was scheduled to receive the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism on November 16, two days after her death at the age of 61. Among the many who expressed their condolences to the family was then US President Barack Obama. First Lady Michelle Obama attended her funeral at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.
One year after her death, Simmons College announced the founding of a school for the following year, which was named in her honor as the Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities. Throughout American history, Gwen Ifill was honored as the most successful African-American news correspondent who ever lived.