Friday, July 17, 2009
R.I.P. Walter Cronkite
The anchor of the 'CBS Evening News' who reported on some of the most memorable moments in 20th century U.S. history, was often called 'the most trusted man in America.'
By Valerie J. Nelson
5:45 PM PDT, July 17, 2009
Walter Cronkite, the former CBS news anchor whose steady baritone informed, reassured and guided the nation during the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s, died today, the network announced. He was 92.
Cronkite, who was often called "the most trusted man in America," died at his home in New York after a long illness, according to CBS Vice President Linda Mason.
Beginning with the Kennedy assassination in 1963, Cronkite shaped coverage of some of the most tumultuous times in U.S. history, including the 1968 assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
In the early 1970s, an opinion poll identified Cronkite as the most trusted public figure in America, a label that stayed with him for decades.
Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. was born Nov. 4, 1916, in St. Joseph, Mo. An only child, he grew up in Kansas City, Mo., and Houston.
By his junior year at the University of Texas at Austin, he had dropped out to become a Houston Press reporter. In 1936, he returned to Kansas City and was hired at a radio station, where he met his future wife, Betsy Maxwell.
In 1939, he joined the United Press and enjoyed the deadline-pressure reporting. He stayed for 11 years.
By 1942, Cronkite was a war correspondent in London. After the war, he covered the Nuremberg war-crime trials of Nazi officials and worked in the wire service's Moscow bureau.
He became a Washington correspondent for a string of radio stations in 1948 then joined CBS.
The 1952 Republican National Convention helped propel Cronkite's CBS career. He would anchor more than a dozen political conventions and subsequent elections.
After retiring from CBS News, Cronkite produced dozens of documentary programs for the Discovery Channel, PBS and other networks.
He also pursued his lifelong passion for sailing and wrote books, including the 1996 autobiography "A Reporter's Life."
He and Betsy had been married for 65 years when she died in 2005.
Cronkite's survivors include his son, Walter Cronkite III, who is known as Chip; and daughters Kathy and Nancy.
As anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News" from 1962 to 1981, Cronkite was arguably the most respected and recognizable media figure of his time.
Although he rarely displayed emotion on camera, those moments are seared into the nation's collective consciousness -- Cronkite tearing up while announcing the assassination of John F. Kennedy, decrying the "thugs" at the 1968 Democratic presidential convention or exclaiming "Go, baby, go!" as Apollo 11 lifted off for the moon.
In 1950, legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow recruited Cronkite for CBS' young television division after Cronkite distinguished himself as a World War II correspondent for the United Press wire service.