1955 – 2016
Gwen Ifill was born in Queens, New York to immigrant parents from Barbados. Her father was an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church minister, which required the family to move frequently throughout her childhood. Growing up, Ifill experienced living in federal subsidized housing and they moved quite frequently along New England due to her father’s ministry. In 1977, she received a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Simmons College.
While attending college she interned at the Boston Herald-American, where a note was a left on her desk “Nigger go home,” this would mark a transformative period of her career as how she decided to move forward. Ifill would move forward to break many barriers. She was one of the first female co-anchors of NewsHour on PBS. Additionally she would become the only black woman to moderate presidential debates that have been nationally syndicated.
After college, working a few years post-college for The Boston Herald Ifill she built a reputation in print with the Baltimore Evening Sun then The Washington Post from 1984 -1991. As a result of artistic differences Ifill left The Post once they made clear their disbelief in Ifill's preparation to cover stories on Capitol Hill. However, that did not halt Ifill from persevering early in her career. The New York Times would immediately hire Ifill to cover The White House from 1991 to 1994. Shortly after that coverage, Ifill received her first television opportunity as a Capitol Hill reporter for NBC.
Gwen Ifill was a well-known and longtime PBS news anchor where she served as moderator of the popular segment Washington Week and was a co-host on PBS NewsHour beginning in 1999. Throughout her career she covered seven presidential campaigns and moderated two vice presidential debates. Her last election moderation took place during the Democratic primary between presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
She will be remembered for her robust conversations and town halls covering tough issues that plagued our nation and individual communities. Ifill covered national issues on her segment from the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to the discussion of a white supremacist who took the innocent lives of nine people attending bible study at Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston, South Carolina.
Ifill was a respected journalist among her peers and others who might have been at the receiving end of a topic she covered for a news story lineup. Many respected her candor and integrity as she proved to be unbiased in her reporting. Revered for her ability to succeed in print news she became a trailblazer in the industry by breaking into digital broadcasting becoming the first black woman to preside over a major political news show -- Washington Week on PBS.
May she continue to be an inspiration to a generation of future journalists and a constant reminder to do the job with courage and integrity!