Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. (November 4, 1916 - July 17, 2009) was an American news reporter. He was the anchor of CBS News from 1962 to 1981. Important events he reported included when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He reported the Apollo 11 moon landing. He also reported on the Watergate scandal, which led to President Richard Nixon resigning from his position. He was often called "the most trusted man in America." People across the country tuned in nightly to hear his coverage of the Vietnam War as it progressed.
Cronkite was born on November 4, 1916 in St. Joseph, Missouri. He studied at the University of Texas at Austin. In 1935 he left school to work for the Houston Post. He later worked for several midwestern radio stations. In World War II he was a war correspondent for United Press International. After the war he was chief correspondent at the Nuremberg trials. He went to work for CBS News in 1950. In 1962 he helped start the CBS Evening News. He served as the news anchor until he retired in 1981.
After retiring, in 1981 he was a co-producer of a PBS program, Why in the World. In 1982 he hosted CBS's Universe. He was the host of A&E's Dinosaur. He did Cronkite Remembers for CBS and the Discovery Channel. He also wrote several books. He won several awards during his career. In 1981 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He won two Peabody Awards and several Emmy Awards.
Cronkite was known for his coverage of the U.S. space program, from Project Mercury to the Moon landings to the Space Shuttle. He was the only non-NASA recipient of a Moon-rock award. Cronkite was well known for his departing catchphrase "And that's the way it is," followed by the date on which the appearance aired.
Cronkite made history when he became the first television reporter to announce the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In the newsroom at CBS, the cameras were not ready when the news came in over the wire service. Cronkite's voice was broadcast over a blank CBS placard on the screen: "Bulletin . . . In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade. The first reports say the President was seriously wounded, that he slumped over in Mrs. Kennedy's lap, she cried out, 'Oh, no!' and the motorcade went on . . . The wounds perhaps could be fatal . . ." For three and a half days there was no entertainment, no commercials, just the news.
Cronkite's reporting of Vietnam was controversial. He reported the events on the evening news. But at the Tet Offensive he traveled there to see the results. What he saw upset him. On February 27, 1968, Cronkite reported the war in Vietnam could not be won. This was a major change from his usual objective reporting. He was voicing his own opinion on national television. It was the view of David Halberstam and others that Cronkite's broadcast turned many Americans against the war. Also that it played a part in Lyndon B. Johnson's decision not to run for another term as President. The other viewpoint is that Americans had already turned against the war before Cronkite's broadcast. After watching Cronkite's broadcast, Lyndon Johnson said to his press secretary, George Christian, "If I have lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America." Whatever effect Cronkite's broadcast had, by 1967 Johnson's approval rating on the war was down to 32%.
Cronkite was married to Mary Elizabeth "Betsy" Maxwell from 1940 until her death in 2005. They had three children. Cronkite died on the morning of July 17, 2009 in New York City, New York from cerebrovascular disease, aged 92.
- "Walter Cronkite Biography". Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- "CBS News Unveils Coverage of JFK Assassination Anniversary, Dan Rather-Free". Deadline.com. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- Tierney Sneed (14 November 2013). "How John F. Kennedy's Assassination Changed Television Forever". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- 'America's Long Vigil', TV Guide, Issue 565, Vol. 12, No. 4 (January 25, 1964), p. 79
- Robert W. Merry (12 July 2012). "Cronkite's Vietnam Blunder". The National Interest. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- "Vietnam on Television". The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- "Walter Cronkite". PBS/WETA. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- Chester Patch (22 July 2009). "The Way It Wasn't: Cronkite and Vietnam". History News Network. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- "Former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite dies". MSNBC.com. 19 July 2009. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
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