Betty White, the trailblazing actor and beloved entertainment personality, has died at the age of 99.
Her death was reported by TMZ, who said law enforcement sources informed them that White had died today (December 31) at her home in Brentwood, California. Her death is believed to be of natural causes.
LAPD spokesman Mike Lopez told the New York Post that officers responded to a radio call this morning at about 9:30am concerning “a natural death investigation” at the actor’s home.
Her agent and close friend Jeff Witjas later confirmed the news to People magazine.
“Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever,” Witjas said in a statement. “I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much.”
Witjas added: “I don’t think Betty ever feared passing because she always wanted to be with her most beloved husband, Allen Ludden. She believed she would be with him again.”
White, who is probably best known for her role as Rose Nylund in US TV sitcom The Golden Girls, was gearing up to celebrate her 100th birthday in just a few weeks, on January 17.
The eight-time Emmy winner held the record for the longest TV career of any entertainer – making her debut in 1939 when the medium was just an experiment and going on to appear as an actor, host and highly sought after guest well into her 90s.
Born on January 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, Betty Marion White, an only child, moved with her parents, Horace White, an electrical engineer, and homemaker Tess Curts White, to Los Angeles during the Great Depression, a few years after her birth.
Her first TV gig came at 17, just a month after graduating from Beverly Hills High School in 1939 – singing ‘The Merry Widow’ on an experimental local channel. This appearance came months before the medium was introduced to the masses at the New York World’s Fair.
White took a break from TV during World War II, working in the American Women’s Voluntary Services and briefly marrying a fighter pilot named Dick Barker, but returned to the small screen in the late 1940s with a few small parts on a local station.
Her first big role was as a co-host on daytime talk-show Hollywood On Television, where she filled five and a half hours of air time, six days a week with celebrity interviews, skits and live commercials.
In 1952, White co-created and starred in a Saturday-night sitcom called Life With Elizabeth – becoming one of TV’s rare female producers and earning her first Emmy nomination.
She continued to pioneer both in front and behind the camera with the short-lived NBC talk show The Betty White Show in 1954. A few southern US stations threatened to take the show off air because it included Black tap dancer Arthur Duncan in the cast, but White famously told them to “live with it”.
She went on to become a regular guest on TV game shows during the 1960s – where she met her third and final husband, Password host Allen Ludden, who she married to until his death in 1981.
However, White will be best remembered for her scene-stealing roles in two pioneering sitcoms – as a relentlessly man-hungry cooking show host Sue Ann Nivens on the The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the ’70s and sweet-natured simpleton Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls in the ’80s.
Several other short-lived sitcoms followed in the late ’90s, but probably her greatest role came in her twilight years, embracing a larger-than-life version of herself on various talk and game shows. From here, she became a cultural icon just being herself. She guest starred on everything from 30 Rock and Community to Noddy and The Bold And The Beautiful.
White continued to work in television, starring in TV films and shows. She took on the role of Elka Ostrovsky in Hot In Cleveland in 2010. The show starred Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick as three best friends from LA who land in Cleveland after attempting to fly to Paris.
White played the caretaker of the home the three friends live in. The arrival of the three women reignited the character’s life again and thrust her back into the world of dating at 80 years old. Prior to that, in 2009, White starred in The Proposal alongside Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.
In 2010, White’s fans began a Facebook campaign called “Betty White to Host SNL (Please)”. After almost half-a-million people signed up, she soon became the oldest person to ever host the famous late night sketch show at 88 and won her seventh Emmy for the performance.
White was nominated three times for the Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a comedy series in 2011, 2012 and 2013. She won the first two times. Throughout her long career, she was nominated for 21 Primetime Emmys, with five total wins.
A number of people from the world of entertainment have taken to social media to pay tribute to White.
On Twitter, Dionne Warwick wrote: “Another brilliant talent has made her transition. I had the pleasure of getting to know Betty White and shared a few giggles with her. May she rest in well-earned peace.”
“Our national treasure, Betty White, has passed just before her 100th birthday,” Star Trek actor George Takei said. “Our Sue Ann Nivens, our beloved Rose Nylund, has joined the heavens to delight the stars with her inimitable style, humor, and charm. A great loss to us all. We shall miss her dearly.”
Seth Meyers added: “RIP Betty White, the only SNL host I ever saw get a standing ovation at the after party. A party at which she ordered a vodka and a hotdog and stayed til the bitter end.”
Ryan Reynolds shared a touching tribute, writing: “The world looks different now. She was great at defying expectation. She managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough. We’ll miss you, Betty. Now you know the secret.”
Another brilliant talent has made her transition. I had the pleasure of getting to know Betty White and shared a few giggles with her. May she rest in well-earned peace. ❤️
— Dionne Warwick (@dionnewarwick) December 31, 2021
Our national treasure, Betty White, has passed just before her 100th birthday. Our Sue Ann Nivens, our beloved Rose Nylund, has joined the heavens to delight the stars with her inimitable style, humor, and charm. A great loss to us all. We shall miss her dearly.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) December 31, 2021
RIP Betty White, the only SNL host I ever saw get a standing ovation at the after party. A party at which she ordered a vodka and a hotdog and stayed til the bitter end.
— Seth Meyers (@sethmeyers) December 31, 2021
The world looks different now. She was great at defying expectation. She managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough. We’ll miss you, Betty. Now you know the secret. pic.twitter.com/uevwerjobS
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) December 31, 2021
Ryan Seacrest, who received news of White’s death while preparing to host Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in New York’s Times Square, wrote: “All of us in Times Square and around the world are grieving the loss of Betty White. She was a TV pioneer who paved the way for so many people. Beyond that, she showed us what you can accomplish in a lifetime through kindness and humor. Rest in peace to a true American icon.”
“RIP Betty White! Man did I think you would live forever. You blew a huge hole in this world that will inspire generations. Rest in glorious peace….you’ve earned your wings,” said Viola Davis.
YouTube personality Jack “CouRage” Dunlop added: “Betty White was everyone’s grandma. What a brilliant career and life. Rest In Peace.”
All of us in Times Square and around the world are grieving the loss of Betty White. She was a TV pioneer who paved the way for so many people. Beyond that, she showed us what you can accomplish in a lifetime through kindness and humor. Rest in peace to a true American icon. pic.twitter.com/J3GekFkzrj
— Ryan Seacrest (@RyanSeacrest) December 31, 2021
RIP Betty White! Man did I think you would live forever. You blew a huge hole in this world that will inspire generations. Rest in glorious peace….you’ve earned your wings ❤️❤️❤https://t.co/7wpeLHgySy
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) December 31, 2021
Betty White was everyone’s grandma.
What a brilliant career and life.
Rest In Peace 🥺
— Jack “CouRage” Dunlop (@CouRageJD) December 31, 2021
US president Joe Biden also shared a tribute, writing: “Betty White brought a smile to the lips of generations of Americans. She’s a cultural icon who will be sorely missed. Jill and I are thinking of her family and all those who loved her this New Year’s Eve.”
Betty White brought a smile to the lips of generations of Americans. She’s a cultural icon who will be sorely missed. Jill and I are thinking of her family and all those who loved her this New Year’s Eve.
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 31, 2021
You can see more tributes to White below:
I loved Betty White, so I went up to them: “I’m so honored to meet you both.” And then I said, “Isn’t Linda great?” She said, “We came to see you.” I said, “Why?” “Because we heard you were funny.” I was elated.
— Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo) December 31, 2021
RIP to Betty White who was charming, delightful, hilarious, talented and unproblematic for 99.9 years.
— roxane gay (@rgay) December 31, 2021
As if 2021 wasn’t bad enough. Rest In Peace, Queen Betty White. pic.twitter.com/BfxwP31km0
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) December 31, 2021
RIP Betty White. Thank you for being a friend… pic.twitter.com/6fd8rs9FLh
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) December 31, 2021
#BettyWhite has died. 2021 really was a bitch and a 1/2.
— bettemidler (@BetteMidler) January 1, 2022
No you know what? Fuck it. Betty White was 100 in my heart. She made it a century and kicked ass the whole way. Rip to a legend.
— Mica Burton (@MicaBurton) December 31, 2021
In a world so divided, one of the last things we could all agree on was Betty White. 😔
— Randy Rainbow (@RandyRainbow) December 31, 2021
Betty White broke barriers, defied expectations, served her country, and pushed us all to laugh. Barack and I join so many around the world who will miss the joy she brought to the world. I know our Bo is looking forward to seeing her up in heaven. pic.twitter.com/tVL7NUw2TT
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) January 1, 2022
Live your life in such a way that if you die at 99 it’s still too soon. #BettyWhite
— Susie Meister (@susie_meister) December 31, 2021
Just gonna go into 2022 pretending that Betty White is still alive and turns 100 😩 Rest In Peace kind & witty legend….you will be missed but never forgotten
— Aly & AJ (@alyandaj) January 1, 2022
Celebrating 99 years of your love on the planet. Thank you Betty White 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/NUmNq1BOZ9
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) January 1, 2022
RIP Betty White, I propose we all celebrate her 100th birthday for her. January 17th we should throw parties by ourselves or with friends, maybe make a cake even
— sarah schauer 🦂 (@sarahschauer) December 31, 2021
It’s a sad end to the year.. losing such wonderful comedic genius. More than that, #BettyWhite was a wonderful person! It was a treat to know her and a privilege to work with her. pic.twitter.com/CjUq0qhhUs
— Kurtwood Smith (@tahitismith) January 1, 2022
Much will be said today about what a brilliant performer Betty White was. And it’s all true. But I’ll always be so grateful that I actually got to work with her when she played my grandma on 70s Show. She was everything you wanted her to be in real life… pic.twitter.com/7WhYFJQTJE
— Topher Grace (@TopherGrace) January 1, 2022
Betty White walking into heaven pic.twitter.com/HVBB4KtPba
— Josiah Johnson (@KingJosiah54) December 31, 2021
rest in peace to a true legend, love u betty white
— Aminé (@heyamine) December 31, 2021
R.I.P. BETTY WHITE ❤️✊🏼 YOU WILL LIVE ON FOREVER 🕊
— Austin Mahone (@AustinMahone) January 1, 2022
She really was the best. A toast to Betty White tonight instead.
— dan levy (@danjlevy) January 1, 2022
— Kurt Fuller (@TheKurtFuller) January 1, 2022
Fun fact: Betty White outlived my dog.
Big love, Betty. RIP.
Also, say hi to Freckles for me.
— Macaulay Culkin (@IncredibleCulk) January 1, 2022
She made us laugh. Thank you Betty White. RIP. pic.twitter.com/d6XeLrlnm1
— Pete Souza (@PeteSouza) December 31, 2021
God bless Betty White. As my mom would say, “we were so lucky to have her.”https://t.co/pXzu6JezOg
— Conan O'Brien (@ConanOBrien) December 31, 2021
Betty White : I is very hard to absorb you are not here anymore.. But the memories of your deLIGHT
are ..Thank you for yur humor , your warmth and your activism ..
Rest now and say Hi to Bill
— Henry Winkler (@hwinkler4real) December 31, 2021
RIP Betty White. What a unique soul she was …. Thank you for all the laughs x pic.twitter.com/XDvkIIbUsL
— Caitríona Balfe (@caitrionambalfe) December 31, 2021
Sad news. No more Betty White. Too bad we couldn’t get another ten years of her always warm, gracious, and witty personality. She was one of a kind!
— Mel Brooks (@MelBrooks) December 31, 2021
What an exceptional life.
I’m grateful for every second I got to spend with Betty White.
Sending love to her family, friends and all of us.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) December 31, 2021
I worked with #BettyWhite on her 95th birthday. I thought you should know the very first words she ever said to me:
“Nice wedding ring. When I was young, if you wanted to fuck a guy you had to marry him. So I was married 3 times.”
RIP Betty, you gave us everything. pic.twitter.com/UiEF8bhsGl
— Aimee Carrero (@aimeecarrero) December 31, 2021
thank you betty white for being so kind to this kid behind the scenes and for teaching me
the most important life lesson
“ sometimes life just isn’t fair kiddo “
— jenny lewis (@jennylewis) December 31, 2021
Tonight we will raise MANY glasses to the WONDERFUL legacy of Betty White!!! ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️
— Andy Cohen (@Andy) December 31, 2021
RIP BETTY WHITE she was 99 and lived a damned great life. ✨💫 pic.twitter.com/9vcJBZMpn0
— Sasha Grey (@SashaGrey) December 31, 2021
R.I.P. Betty White.
Thank you for being our friend.
— Ryan Stiles (@WhoseRyanStiles) December 31, 2021