Walter Cronkite, Trusted CBS Anchorman, Dies at 92

Manila Bulletin, July 18, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Walter Cronkite, Trusted CBS Anchorman, Dies at 92


Walter Cronkite, who pioneered and then mastered the role of television news anchorman with such plain-spoken grace that he was called the most trusted man in America, died Friday at his home in New York. He was 92. The cause was complications of dementia, said Chip Cronkite, his son. From 1962 to 1981, Cronkite was a nightly presence in American homes and always a reassuring one, guiding viewers through national triumphs and tragedies alike, from moonwalks to war, in an era when network news was central to many people's lives. He became something of a national institution, with an unflappable delivery, a distinctively avuncular voice and a daily benediction: "And that's the way it is." He was Uncle Walter to many: respected, liked and listened to. He was among the first celebrity anchormen. As anchorman and reporter, Cronkite described wars, natural disasters, nuclear explosions, social upheavals and space flights. On the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Cronkite briefly lost his composure in announcing that the president had been pronounced dead at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. Taking off his black-framed glasses and wiping away a tear, he registered the emotions of millions. It was an uncharacteristically personal note from a newsman who was uncomfortable expressing opinion. "I am a news presenter, a news broadcaster, an anchorman, a managing editor -- not a commentator or analyst," he said in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor in 1973. "I feel no compulsion to be a pundit." But when he did pronounce judgment, the impact was large. In 1968, he visited Vietnam and returned to do a rare special program on the war. He called the conflict a stalemate and advocated a negotiated peace. President Lyndon B. Johnson watched the broadcast, Cronkite wrote in his 1996 memoir, "A Reporter's Life," quoting a description of the scene by Bill Moyers, then a Johnson aide. "The president flipped off the set," Moyers recalled, "and said, 'If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."' In 1977, his separate interviews with President Anwar al-Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel were instrumental in Sadat's visiting Jerusalem. The countries later signed a peace treaty. Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. was born Nov. 4, 1916, in St. Joseph, Mo., the son of Walter Leland Cronkite Sr., a dentist, and the former Helen Lena Fritsche. As a boy, Walter peddled magazines door to door and hawked newspapers. As a teenager, after the family had moved to Houston, he got a job with The Houston Post as a copy boy and cub reporter. Cronkite attended the University of Texas for two years, studying political science, economics and journalism, working on the school newspaper and picking up journalism jobs with The Houston Press and other newspapers. He left college in 1935 without graduating to take a job as a reporter with The Press. At KCMO, Cronkite met an advertising writer named Mary Elizabeth Maxwell. The two read a commercial together. One of Cronkite's lines was, "You look like an angel." They were married for 64 years until her death in 2005. Cronkite is survived by his daughters, Nancy Elizabeth and Mary Kathleen; his son, Walter Leland III; and four grandsons. After being fired from KCMO in a dispute over journalism practices he considered shabby, Cronkite in 1939 landed a job at the United Press news agency, now United Press International. He reported from Houston, Dallas, El Paso and Kansas City.

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