Gwen Ifill, who died of cancer on Nov. 14 at 61, was not only one of the best journalists of her generation but also a model for reporters of all colors in a business that is still largely white and male.
Certain of her calling from the age of 9, Ifill worked at the Baltimore Evening Sun, the Washington Post and the New York Times before jumping to broadcast news (first at NBC and then PBS) and becoming the first black woman to host a political-affairs talk show.
The daughter of an AME pastor, she brought an uncommon human feel to covering the lives of politicians and personalities and yet a steely determination to hold to account those same figures. “I always appreciated Gwen’s reporting,” said President Obama, “even when I was at the receiving end of one of her tough and thorough interviews.”
This appears in the November 28, 2016 issue of TIME.