Journalist Chris Wallace has been happily married to wife Lorraine Smothers for more than 20 years and they have a blended family of six grown children. But before Wallace and Smothers tied the knot in 1997, Wallace spent more than two decades with first wife Elizabeth Jane Farrell.
Farrell was by his side when he made the jump from local to network news in the 1970s. They raised two sons and two daughters together before the marriage ended in 1994.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Wallace & Farrell Met in Boston While He Was Covering City Hall as a Newspaper Reporter
Wallace and Farrell may not have met if Wallace had continued with his original plan. After graduating from Harvard in 1969, Wallace’s next step was to attend Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut.
He told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014 that he switched up the gameplan days before classes were scheduled to start. “I was a week away from starting Yale Law School and I also thought about government service. But I guess it’s in my DNA, so I went to work as a reporter for the Boston Globe.”
Wallace stayed in Boston and soon met the woman who would become his wife. Farrell was working for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the urban planning department for the city. (It is now called the Boston Planning & Development Agency.) Wallace was covering city hall for the newspaper and met Farrell through that assignment.
2. Farrell Made More Money Than Wallace in Boston
Wallace told People in 1979 that when he met Farrell, she was the more financially successful of the two. He told the magazine Farrell was “making more money than” he was at the time.
In 1970, Farrell’s title at the Boston Redevelopment Authority was “Technician I,” according to the minutes from a meeting on March 19, 1970. Her salary was listed as $7,140. Adjusted for inflation, that amount is equivalent to about $48,000 in 2020.
According to the couple’s wedding announcement in 1973, Farrell was later promoted to director of federal financing for the agency.
3. The Couple Married Around the Same Time Wallace Accepted a Reporting Job in Chicago
After his stint at the Boston Globe, Wallace shifted his career focus to broadcast journalism. He accepted a job as a reporter for WBBM‐TV, the CBS station in Wallace’s hometown Chicago. According to People, Wallace and Farrell got married around the same time Wallace took that job.
The wedding took place on May 12, 1973, at St. Margaret’s Roman Catholic Church in Rumford, Rhode Island. The New York Times announcement noted Farrell had graduated high school from Elmhurst Academy in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. She then attended Newton College of the Sacred Heart, a small women’s liberal arts in Massachusetts. (The school merged with Boston College in 1974). Farrell’s picture was published in the New York Times and you can see it here.
The wedding announcement included that Farrell’s father, John E. Farrell, served as the executive secretary of the Rhode Island Medical Society in Providence at the time.
Wallace’s stepfather, Bill Leonard, was named in the wedding announcement as a senior vice president of CBS News. Wallace’s biological father, Mike Wallace, was mentioned as a CBS correspondent but his name was not printed. Wallace’s stepbrother, Nicolas Dacre Leonard, was his best man.
4. Farrell & Wallace Moved From Chicago to New York to Washington, D.C., During Their First 5 Years of Marriage
Farrell and Wallace’s early marriage involved crucial career moves for him. The couple lived in Chicago for about two years while he was a reporter for the local CBS station.
According to the 1979 profile in People, Wallace received two job offers back on the east coast around the same time. The first came from the local NBC station in New York City. The second came from CBS News in Washington, D.C.
Wallace explained to the magazine that after he heard from NBC, “I told my father and stepfather not to say anything, but of course the word leaked, and CBS offered me a network job in Washington.” Wallace said he turned down CBS because “it would raise questions and that I would be operating under a cloud.”
Wallace stayed with NBC News for 14 years, from 1975 until 1989, according to his Fox News bio. He and Farrell lived in New York City for about three years before relocating to the nation’s capital when Wallace became a political correspondent for the network.
Farrell and Wallace welcomed their first two children during these growing years as well. Oldest son Peter was born in 1975 and daughter Megan arrived in 1977.
5. Farrell Still Owns the Washington, D.C., Home the Couple Purchased in 1978
Farrell and Wallace moved to Washington, D.C., in 1978. Wallace told People in 1979 that he was concerned about the amount of travel involved for his job with NBC News. “You pay a price with your wife and especially with your children,” he told the magazine. Farrell quit working to care for their children in the family’s “comfortable two-story” house.
Wallace and Farrell bought the six-bedroom house for $157,000 in early 1978, according to records on Redfin. The home now has an estimated value of about $1.5 million. Originally built in 1925, the house has about 2,600 square feet of living space and 4.5 bathrooms.
According to a search of online property records, Farrell still owns the property. The owner is listed as “Elizabeth J Farrell & Elizabeth Jane Farrell Revocable Trust.”
Farrell and Wallace welcomed twins Catherine and Andrew in 1986. According to a profile in Town & Country magazine, the marriage “collapsed” in 1994, around the same time Wallace’s stepfather died. The magazine did not elaborate on what caused the breakdown in Farrell and Wallace’s relationship.
Farrell has remained out of the spotlight since divorcing Wallace. It’s unclear whether she remarried.
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