Betty White, comedy icon and Golden Girls star, dies at 99

White was less than a month from her 100th birthday, with celebrations already planned.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
3 min read

Betty White, seen here in 2015, began her entertainment career at age 8.

Amanda Edwards / Getty Images

Betty White, the last Golden Girl and a comedy icon, died on Friday morning at 99, according to the Washington Post. White's agent, Jeff Witjas, confirmed the news to the newspaper and did not give a cause of death.

"Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever," Witjas said in a statement provided to People magazine. "I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much. 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's broadcast career began in 1930, when she was just 8 years old and made an appearance on the radio program Empire Builders. Best known to many for her role as Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s and as Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls from 1985 to 1992, she appeared in countless other TV shows and films. She also played Elka Ostrovsky on the TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland, which ran from 2010 to 2015.

White was the last surviving star of The Golden Girls, which focused on the lives of four older women living together in Miami. Three of her Mary Tyler Moore Show co-stars -- Ed Asner, Gavin MacLeod, and Cloris Leachman -- also died in 2021. 

White was also well known for her charitable work involving animals and her animal rights advocacy.

Beyond TV sitcoms, White was a game-show staple, serving as a panelist on such shows as Match Game, Password, The Hollywood Squares, To Tell the Truth, Tattletales and The $25,000 Pyramid. She won a Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding game show host in 1983 for hosting the short-lived show Just Men!

White received seven Emmy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild awards and set a Guinness World Record for working in television longer than anyone else. She was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1985 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She won a Grammy Award for best spoken-word recording for the audio recording of her 2011 book If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't).

White was married three times and had no children. She met her third husband, Allen Ludden, in 1961 when she was a celebrity guest on the game show Password, which he hosted. Ludden died of stomach cancer in 1981 and White told talk-show host Larry King she had decided not to remarry, saying, "Once you've had the best, who needs the rest?"

Fans and friends were quick to remember her on social media.

Ed Asner's son, Matt Asner, wrote that White was "One of the nicest people in the world. Just as sweet as you would expect her to be. The (warmest) of greetings as a child seeing her on the set as well as every time in my decades as an adult. Love you Betty. Give my dad a kiss."

Journalist Dan Rather also remembered White. "A spirit of goodness and hope," Rather said in a tweet. "Betty White was much beloved because of who she was, and how she embraced a life well lived. Her smile. Her sense of humor. Her basic decency. Our world would be better if more followed her example. It is diminished with her passing."

Plans had already been made to celebrate White's 100th birthday on Jan. 17 with the theatrical release of Betty White: 100 Years Young -- A Birthday Celebration, a film celebrating her life and career and meant to be shown only on her 100th birthday. 

"Our hearts mourn today with the passing of Betty White," producers Steve Boettcher and Mike Trinklein said in a statement. "Betty always said she was the 'luckiest broad on two feet' to have had a career as long as she did. And honestly, we were the lucky ones to have had her for so long. We will go forward with our plans to show the film on January 17 in hopes our film will provide a way for all who loved her to celebrate her life — and experience what made her such a national treasure."

New Movies Coming in 2023 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

See all photos