Walter Cronkite was one of the first broadcast journalists on American television. Before his death in 2009, he was popularly known as the anchorman and managing editor of the CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981. Cronkite’s manner of communication and high journalistic standards made him a reliable figure to all American viewers. His popular nicknames include “Old Iron pants,” “Uncle Walter” and “King of the anchormen.” Cronkite is also popular for his departing catchphrase, “And that’s the way it is,” followed by the date of the broadcast. This article is written in remembrance of the life of Walter Cronkite, who was born on November 4, 1916.
The Childhood of Walter Cronkite
Walter Cronkite was born on November 4, 1916, in St. Joseph, Missouri. He was the only child of his parents. Cronkite spent the first ten years of his life in Kansas City after which his family moved to Texas for a dentistry job his dad secured.
Walter Cronkite and his family gather around the piano at Christmas to sing. (Photo by Genevieve Naylor/Corbis via Getty Images)
Growing up, he was known to be curious and observant of his surroundings. Cronkite studied encyclopedias and would always record his daily observations in a notebook. His childhood wasn’t rosy as he had to work many odd jobs to make extra money. Cronkite’s father became an alcoholic in 1929 when the great depression had just set in. The lack of money forced his family to eat dog food.
Cronkite’s Educational Background
Cronkite interest in journalism started when he worked on the staff of the school newspaper at Sidney Lanier Middle School. He was also in charge of a paper route for the Houston post. Cronkite became interested in politics after he attended the Democratic National Convention in Houston and the Republican National Convention in Kansas City.
08/05/1952. Walter Cronkite. TV commentator at work. Photo shows him holding headphone up to listen to incoming directions. Television monitors in background.
Cronkite was inspired to become a journalist by a professional newspaperman who volunteered at the school. Walter graduated from college in 1933 and got admitted at the University of Texas in Austin. At the University of Texas, he had terrible grades but still kept his interest in journalism alive.
The Beginning of his Journalism Career
Cronkite worked for Houston Press as a freelance writer and also became a sports presenter for a local radio station while he was still studying. In 1935, Cronkite decided to quit school and work full time for Houston Press. He was later fired when he refused to follow the order of his boss to air breaking news without confirmation. He would then go on to work at the United Press International for several years. At the UPI, he gained experience while covering theWorld War II in Europe.
Famous Radio and TV newscasters: Cronkite, Traub and Severeid. Undated photograph.
Cronkite served as a chief correspondent at the Nuremberg war crimes trials from 1945–1946. He was also the head of the Moscow (Russia) office from 1946 to 1948.
America’s Most Trusted Man
Cronkite joined CBS News in 1950. At this point, he wasn’t yet popular. In 2 years he became the narrator for the TV program called You Are There and served as the anchor for the CBS coverage of the Democratic and Republican, which he continued till he retired. His face became a popular one on TV in 1954 when he became the narrator of The Twentieth Century, a TV documentary on recent history.
President Gerald Ford on CBS Evening News with anchorman Walter Cronkite during the GOP Convention, Detroit, Michigan, July 1980. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
In 1962, Cronkite was given the role of anchor and editor of the CBS Evening News. From that moment, the program became one of the most watched TV news broadcast. His ability to explain complex events to the average viewer earned him the name America’s most trusted man in an independent opinion poll in 1972.
Popular Events Covered by Walter Cronkite
Cronkite’s report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was so detailed that it was ranked as the most famous news reports in television history. Other notable events he covered include World War II, the Iran Hostage Crisis, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., and Beatles musician John Lennon, the Nuremberg trials and Dawson’s Field hijackings.
President Kennedy in a television interview with CBS newsman Walter Cronkite (left) at the summer White House. The president said the war against Communism in Vietnam cannot be won unless the Saigon government makes, a greater effort…to win popular support. Kennedy said the actions of the government of President Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam against the Buddhists were, very unwise.
Cronkite was also known for his famous report of the U.S space program including Project Mercury and their Moon landings. Despite these roles, he also continued narrator and correspondents on network specials like space shots, major documentaries, and interviews with influential figures in the world. Cronkite anchored the coverage of political events for more than thirty years. He also interviewed every U.S. president during his time at CBS.
His Retirement and Death
Cronkite retired from CBS on March 6, 1981, due to back and stomach issues. Despite his retirement, he stayed active. He visited his friends and families in Kansas, hosted the city’s 150th-anniversary celebrations. He also sailed around the world and went around Kansas as a professional speaker.
President Obama, VIP’s, Attend Memorial Service For Walter CronkiteNEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 09: Journalist Tom Brokaw speaks at a tribute to the late television journalist Walter Cronkite on September 9, 2009 at Lincoln Center in New York City. Numerous dignitaries attended the morning memorial service for the former CBS anchorman who died in July. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Cronkite’s wife, Betsy died from cancer on March 15, 2005. A year later, Cronkite was diagnosed with the cerebrovascular disease. He started symptoms like memory loss, partial paralysis, and speech problems. All these led to his death on July 17, 2009. A memorial service was held in New York, while his body was returned to Kansas City for cremation and funeral.
What Cronkite Will be Remembered for
Walter Cronkite is widely known as the greatest television anchormen of all time. He trained himself to speak at the rate of 124 words per minute which was the fastest at that time.
University of Southern California journalism awards at Beverly Hilton Hotel dinner, 30 October 1961. (Left) Henry R Luce (Editor-in-Chief of Time); Ralph McGill (Publisher of Atlanta Constitution); Walter Cronkite (CBS News Analyst). (Photo by Los Angeles Examiner/USC Libraries/Corbis via Getty Images)
He won many awards including the Peabody, George Polk, Presidential Medal of Freedom and William Allen White awards for journalistic excellence. He also won lots of Emmy Awards. He was so much loved that the journalism school of Arizona State University was named after him.
The Legacy He Left Behind
In 1985, Cronkite was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. In 2006, he became the first non-astronaut to be awarded NASA’s Ambassador of Exploration Award. Cronkite was the first living person inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians in the capitol building at Jefferson City.
CBS news broadcaster Walter Cronkite is shown here seated in a studio.
Walter Cronkite’s most significant accomplishment was being a role model to upcoming Journalists. He created a set of journalistic standards for television news which are excellence, integrity, accuracy, fairness, and objectivity.