Gwen Ifill was a pioneering Black journalist, providing a role model for young Blacks aspiring to media careers, especially women. Ms. Ifill succumbed to her battle with cancer Monday at the age of 61, prompting a nation to mourn one of its most respected journalists.
Ifill was born September 29, 1955 in New York City to a Panamanian-Barbadian minister father and a Barbadian mother. Her father’s ministry carried her and her siblings up and down the Eastern Seaboard while living humbly in church parsonages and in federally subsidized housing.
After graduating from Boston’s Simmons College in 1977 with a degree in communications, Ifill embarked on a print journalism career with stops at The Baltimore Evening Sun, The Washington Post and the New York Times. She quickly gained a reputation as a tenacious reporter who asked tough questions, which served her well in the next and most notable phase of her career.
In 1999, Ifill started hosting her own political news show, PBS’ Washington Week in Review program. It was then where Ifill cut her teeth as a host who dug into her guests and voiced her disagreements with authority. When the show was renamed Washington Week, she remained its host and managing editor.
Alongside Judy Woodruff, Ifill became part of the first all-female news anchor in 2013 with PBS Newshour, a show she also anchored alone on Friday nights. Ifill made history once more when she became the first Black woman to moderate a presidential debate with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Ifill also authored a book in 2009 titled The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.
President Obama shared his condolences from the White House on Monday, calling Ifill a “powerful role model.”
PHOTO: PBS Promo/AP