What is Sam Donaldson’s Net Worth and Salary?
Sam Donaldson is a retired American reporter and news anchor who has a net worth of $50 million. Sam Donaldson worked for ABC News from 1967 to 2009. During that time, he served two tenures as the network’s official White House correspondent, first from 1977 to 1989 and then from 1997 to 1999. Additionally, Donaldson served as a panelist and a co-anchor on the ABC Sunday morning political affairs program “This Week.” Sam officially retired from ABC News in 2013. Donaldson has won an Edward R. Murrow Award, four Emmy Awards, and three Peabody Awards.
ABC Salary History
In the late 1980s and 1990s, Sam earned $1-2 million per year from ABC. By the early 2000s he was earning $4-5 million per year.
Early Life and Education
Samuel Donaldson Jr. was born on March 11, 1934 in El Paso, Texas to farmer Samuel Sr. and schoolteacher Chloe. He was raised on his family’s farm in Chamberino, New Mexico. For his education, Donaldson went to the New Mexico Military Institute and then to Texas Western College. At the latter school, he worked as the station manager of the campus radio station KTEP.
Military Service and Career Beginnings
In 1956, Donaldson enlisted in the US Army. He went on to serve on active duty through 1959 as an artillery officer, reaching the rank of captain. Following his discharge, Donaldson joined the Dallas, Texas CBS television affiliate KRLD-TV, where he worked for a year. He subsequently moved to New York City to pursue a broadcast news job, which he failed to obtain. Donaldson had better luck in Washington, DC, where he was hired by WTOP-TV in early 1961. For the station, he covered both local and national news, including such major stories as Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign and the Senate debates on the civil rights bill. Donaldson also anchored the weekend evening newscasts.
ABC News, Part 1
Donaldson was hired as a Washington correspondent for ABC News in late 1967. Over the following two years, he covered the political conventions for both of the major political parties. He also started to anchor the network’s late-night weekend newscasts. Donaldson went on to cover many major national stories throughout the 70s. Early in the decade, he covered the Vietnam War and served as ABC’s chief Watergate correspondent, reporting about the Watergate trial and Senate hearings as well as the impeachment investigation of Richard Nixon.
Donaldson covered the 1976 presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter, and was appointed as ABC’s official White House correspondent in early 1977. He remained in that position through early 1989. Donaldson also anchored ABC’s Sunday evening news broadcasts from 1979 until 1989. Meanwhile, from 1981 to 1996, he served as a panelist on the Sunday morning political affairs program “This Week with David Brinkley.” Following Brinkley’s retirement in 1996, Donaldson took over as co-anchor alongside Cokie Roberts. The pair held their positions until 2002, when they were replaced by George Stephanopoulos.
ABC News, Part 2
From 1989 to 1999, Donaldson co-anchored ABC’s magazine program “Primetime Live” with Diane Sawyer. One of his most notable reports on the show featured a former Nazi Gestapo officer named Erich Priebke, who fled to Argentina following the war. Donaldson landed an interview with Priebke, which in turn led to the Nazi criminal’s extradition and life sentence in Italy. Among his other major coverage, Donaldson covered the Gulf War and reported from Kuwait City. En route to Sarajevo on assignment in 1992, Donaldson’s producer David Kaplan was killed by a sniper; Donaldson reported on this incident from Belgrade that night.
Donaldson stepped back into the position of White House correspondent in early 1997, and held the post until mid-1999. During this second tenure, he covered the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Also during that time, he anchored “20/20.” Donaldson retired from ABC in 2009. Notably, he left having covered every major political party convention across his 40+ years on the network.
Federal Aid Scandals
In 1995, Donaldson was implicated in a federal aid scandal as being among the affluent, absentee individuals to benefit from federal subsidies. Specifically, he had received nearly $200,000 in mohair subsidies for a farm on which he was declared absentee. Just one year later, Donaldson was involved in another federal aid scandal when it was disclosed that he was using exorbitant federal resources to kill various wild animals on his ranch. Unsurprisingly, this also sparked outrage among animal rights activists.
Donaldson has sat on a number of boards over the years. Previously, he was a member of the board of directors of the Library of American Broadcasting, and was president of the advisory board of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Donaldson later became a member of the boards of the Ford Theater Advisory Council and New Mexico First, the state’s bipartisan booster group.
Donaldson has been married and divorced multiple times. He was wed to his first wife, Patricia Oates, from 1954 to 1962. Following that, he was married to Billie Kay Butler from 1963 to 1980. In 1983, Donaldson wed Janice C. Smith, whom he was with until their divorce in 2014. That year, he married Sandra Martorelli. The couple resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico. From his marriages, Donaldson has four children: Samuel, Jennifer, Thomas, and Robert.
For several decades Sam has owned and operated a 27,000 acre cattle ranch in Lincoln County, New Mexico. In July 2005, three members of the ranch foreman’s family were killed by the family’s 14-year-old son Cody Posey. Cody was subsequently arrested and sentenced to juvenile detention until he turned 21. He was released in 2010.