Walter Annenberg

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Walter Annenberg : biography

13 March 1908 – 01 October 2002

Annenberg was named Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia’s Person of the Year in 1983 and was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame in 1992.

The Annenberg Space for Photography, dedicated to both digital images and print photography, was opened in Los Angeles’ Century City in 2009 by the Annenberg Foundation and its trustees. The first exhibit featured the work of John Baldessari, Catherine Opie, Greg Gorman, Douglas Kirkland, Tim Street-Porter, Julius Shulman, Lauren Greenfield, and Carolyn Cole.

Personal life

Annenberg has been married twice:

  • In 1939 he married Bernice Veronica Dunkelman. Bernice was raised in a Jewish family in Canada, the daughter of Canadian businessman David Dunkelman who was known for mass-producing low-cost suits and selling them for at a single low price of $14 at his chain of 65 retail stores. 1999 | p. 263 They divorced in 1950 after eleven years together. While married, Dunkelman and Annenberg had two children: a daughter, Wallis, and son, Roger. Roger committed suicide in 1962; to commemorate his death, Harvard University, where Roger was a student at the time, now has a Roger Annenberg Hall named in his honor.
  • In 1951 Annenberg married Leonore "Lee" Cohn. Lee was a niece of Harry Cohn, the founder and president of Columbia Pictures. Although of Jewish ethnicity, she was raised a Christian Scientist by her uncle’s wife. Despite being born to Jewish families, the Annenbergs were not practitioners of Judaism; instead celebrating Easter and Christmas with family and friends. February 2011

Death

Annenberg died at his home in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, on October 1, 2002, from complications dealing with pneumonia; he was 94 years old. He was survived by his wife Leonore (February 20, 1918 – March 12, 2009), daughter Wallis, and two sisters, Enid A. Haupt and Evelyn Hall. Including those by his wife’s daughters from her first two marriages (Diane Deshong and Elizabeth Kabler), he left behind seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Business life

After his father’s death in 1942, Annenberg took over the family businesses, making successes out of some that had been failing. He bought additional print media as well as radio and television stations, resulting in great success. One of his most prominent successes was the creation of TV Guide in 1952, which he started against the advice of his financial advisers. He also created Seventeen magazine. During the 1970s, TV Guide was making $600,000 – $1,000,000 profit per week.

While Annenberg ran his publishing empire as a business, he was not afraid to use it for his own ends. One of his publications, The Philadelphia Inquirer, was influential in ridding Philadelphia of its largely corrupt city government in 1949. It attacked McCarthyism in the 1950s, and campaigned for the Marshall Plan following World War II.

In 1966, Annenberg used the pages of The Inquirer to cast doubt on the candidacy of Democrat Milton Shapp, for governor of Pennsylvania. Shapp was highly critical of the proposed merger of the Pennsylvania Railroad with the New York Central Railroad and was pushing the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission to prevent it from occurring. Walter Annenberg, who was the biggest individual stockholder of the Pennsylvania Railroad, wanted to see the merger go through and was frustrated with Shapp’s opposition.

During a press conference, an Inquirer reporter asked Shapp if he had ever been a patient in a mental hospital. Never having been in one, Shapp simply said "no". The next day, a five-column front page Inquirer headline read, “Shapp Denies Mental Institution Stay”. Shapp and others have attributed his loss of the election to Annenberg's newspaper.