Biographies - Walter Cronkite
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|Walter Cronkite |
|Born: November 4, 1916|
|Died: July 17, 2009|
American journalist, best remembered for his work as a television news anchorman. During his tenure at "CBS Evening News" (1962-1980), he was often cited in viewer opinion polls as "the most trusted man in America."
American journalist, best known for his work as a television news anchorman. During his tenure at \\\"CBS Evening News\\\", he was often cited in viewer opinion polls as \\\"the most trusted man in America\\\", because of his experience and professional demeanor.
Cronkite was born in St. Joseph, Missouri to Walter Leland Cronkite and Helena Fritsch; he had remote Dutch ancestry on his fathers side, the family surname originally being Krankheyt.
Cronkite moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1917 and then to Houston, Texas in 1928. He attended junior high school at Lanier Junior High School (now Lanier Middle School) and high school at San Jacinto High School. He was a member of the Boy Scouts. He attended university at The University of Texas at Austin, where he became a member of the Nu chapter of the Chi Phi Fraternity. He also was a member of the fraternal organization of young men known as DeMolay (a member of Houston Chapter).
He dropped out of college his junior year in 1935 and began a series of newspaper reporting jobs covering news and sports.
He entered broadcasting as a radio announcer for WKY in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 1936 he met his wife Mary Elizabeth Maxwell (known by her nickname \\\"Betsy\\\") while working as the sports announcer for KCMO (AM) in Kansas City, Missouri. His broadcast name was \\\"Walter Wilcox.\\\". He would explain later that radio stations at the time did not want people to use their real names for fear of taking their listeners with them. In Kansas City he joined the United Press in 1937. He became one of the top American reporters in World War II, covering battles in North Africa and Europe. After the war, he covered the Nuremberg trials, and served as the United Press main reporter in Moscow for two years.
Early years at CBS
1950, Cronkite joined CBS News in its young and growing television division, recruited by Edward R. Murrow, who had previously tried to hire Cronkite from UP during the war. Cronkite began working at WTOP-TV, the CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C.. (The station was owned by the Washington Post Company.)
On July 7, 1952, the term \\\"anchor\\\" was coined to describe Cronkites role at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, which marked the first nationally-televised convention coverage. ronkite anchored the networks coverage of the 1952 presidential election as well as later conventions, until in 1964 he was temporarily replaced by the team of Robert Trout and Roger Mudd. This proved to be a mistake, and Cronkite was returned to the anchor chair for future political conventions.
From 1953 to 1957, Cronkite hosted the CBS program \\\"You Are There,\\\" which reenacted historical events, using the format of a news report. His famous last line for these programs was: \\\"What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times... and you were there.\\\" He also hosted The Twentieth Century, a documentary series about important historical events of the century which was made up almost exclusively of newsreel footage and interviews. It became a long-running hit. (Note: In the early 1970s, \\\"You Are There\\\", hosted by Walter Cronkite, was revived and redisigned to attract an audience of teenagers and young adults. It aired on Saturday mornings.).
The CBS Evening News
Cronkite succeeded Douglas Edwards as anchorman of the CBS Evening News on April 16, 1962, a job in which he became an American icon. The program expanded from 15 to 30 minutes on September 2, 1963, making Cronkite the anchor of American network televisions first nightly half-hour news program.
During the early part of his tenure anchoring the CBS Evening News, Cronkite competed against NBCs anchor team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, who anchored the Huntley-Brinkley Report. For most of the 1960s, the Huntley-Brinkley Report had more viewers than Cronkites broadcast. This began to change in the late 1960s, as RCA made a corporate decision not to fund NBC News at the levels CBS funded CBS News. Consequently, CBS News acquired a reputation for accuracy and depth in its broadcast journalism. This reputation meshed nicely with Cronkites wire service experience, and in 1968 the CBS Evening News began to surpass the Huntley-Brinkley Report in viewership during the summer months.
The CBS Evening News finally achieved dominance of the American TV news viewing audience in 1970, when Huntley retired and corporate dithering on RCAs part crippled the selection of a successor anchor and format. During this time, Cronkites broadcast achieved a dominance that would continue during his tenure at the anchor desk. Although NBC finally settled on the skilled and well-respected broadcast journalist John Chancellor, Cronkite proved to be more popular and continued to be top-rated until his retirement.
One of Cronkites trademarks was ending the CBS Evening News with the phrase, \\\"...And thats the way it is:\\\", followed by the date (keeping to standards of objective journalism, he omitted this phrase on nights when he ended the newscast with opinion or commentary). During the Iran hostage crisis from 1979 to 1981, he also counted the days the hostages were in captivity, following his trademark line.
Currently, Walter Cronkites voice can be heard announcing CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric at the beginning of the news broadcast.
For many years, Cronkite was considered one of the most trusted figures in the United States. Affectionately known as \\\"Uncle Walter\\\", he covered many of the important news events of the era so effectively that his image and voice are closely associated with the Cuban missile crisis, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the Apollo 11 Moon landing, and the Watergate scandal.
Hstoric moments as anchor:
Cronkite is vividly remembered by many Americans as the first anchor to break the news of the death of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The first bulletins broke into the live broadcast of the daytime soap opera As The World Turns. Those bulletins were audio only as CBS did not have a camera \\\"warmed up\\\" in the newsroom.
Later, after being handed (on camera) a piece of paper from the Associated Press wire machine, Cronkite put on his glasses, looked it over for a moment, took off his glasses, and told the viewing audience:
\\\"From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official (reading AP flash): President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time ? 2:00 Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.\\\"
After the announcement, Cronkite paused briefly, put his glasses back on and swallowed hard, apparently trying to maintain his composure. Still, there was noticeable emotion and a quaver in his voice as he intoned the next sentence, \\\"Vice President Johnson has left the hospital...\\\" Footage from this historic broadcast was featured in the opening scenes of Oliver Stones film JFK.
In a 2006 TV interview with Nick Clooney, Cronkite confirmed, \\\"I choked up, I really had a little trouble...my eyes got a little wet...(what Kennedy had represented) was just all lost to us. Fortunately, I grabbed hold before I was actually (crying).\\\"
Following Cronkites editorial report during the Tet Offensive that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable, President Lyndon Johnson is reported to have said, \\\"If Ive lost Walter Cronkite, Ive lost the country.\\\" Soon after Cronkites report, Johnson dropped out of the 1968 presidential race.
During the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Cronkite was anchoring the CBS network coverage as violence and protests occurred outside the convention, as well as scuffles inside the convention hall. When Dan Rather was pushed to the floor (on camera) by security personnel, Cronkite commented, \\\"I think weve got a bunch of thugs here, Dan.\\\"
Other historic events
Cronkite is also remembered for his coverage of the U.S. space program, and at times was visibly enthusiastic, rubbing his hands together on camera with a smile on July 20, 1969 when the Apollo 11 mission first landed man on the moon.
According to the 2006 PBS documentary on Cronkite, there was \\\"nothing new\\\" in his reports on the Watergate affair, yet Cronkite brought together a wide range of reporting, and his credibility and status is credited by many with pushing the Watergate story to the forefront with the American public, ultimately resulting in the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon on August 9, 1974. Cronkite had anchored the CBS coverage of Nixons address, announcing his impending resignation, the night before.
Cronkite announced that he intended to retire from The CBS Evening News on February 14, 1980; at the time, CBS had a policy in place that called for mandatory retirement by age 65.  His last day in the anchor chair at the CBS Evening News was on March 6, 1981. He was succeeded the following Monday by Dan Rather.
Cronkites farewell statement:
This is my last broadcast as the anchorman for The CBS Evening News. For me, its a moment for which I long have planned, but which, nevertheless, comes with some sadness. For almost 2 decades, after all, weve been meeting like this in the evenings, and Ill miss that. But to those who have made anything of this departure, Im afraid it made too much. This is but a transition, a passing of the baton. A great broadcaster and gentleman, Doug Edwards, preceded me in this job, and another, Dan Rather, will follow. And anyway, the person who sits here is but the most conspicuous member of a superb team of journalists; writers, reporters, editors, producers, and none of that will change. Furthermore, Im not even going away! Ill be back from time to time with special news reports and documentaries, and, beginning in June, every week, with our science program, Universe. Old anchormen, you see, don fade away; they just keep coming back for more. And thats the way it is: Friday, March 6, 1981. Ill be away on assignment, and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years. Good night.
Cronkite wrote a syndicated opinion column for King Features Syndicate.
He has continued to broadcast occasionally as a special correspondent for CBS, CNN, and NPR into the 21st century; one such occasion was Cronkite anchoring the second space flight by John Glenn in 1998 as he had Glenns first in 1962.
In 1983, he reported on the British General Election for the ITV current affairs series World In Action, interviewing, among many others, the victorious Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.
Cronkite was also considered to be a finalist for NASAs \\\"Journalist in Space\\\" program, which mirrored the Teacher in Space Project, but was dropped after the Challenger Disaster in 1986.
He voiced a character based on Benjamin Franklin in the educational television cartoon Libertys Kids
He holds amateur radio operator license KB2GSD and has narrated a 2003 American Radio Relay League documentary explaining amateur radios role in disaster relief.
In 1995 he made an appearance on Broadway, though not in the usual fashion - he provided the voice of the titular book in the 1995 revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
He has a school of journalism named after him - The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication is part of Arizona State University.
Prior to 2004, he could also be seen in the opening movie in the Walt Disney World attraction, The Magic of Disney Animation, interviewing Robin Williams as if he is still on the CBS News channel, ending his on-camera time with his famous catchphrase. He also was shown inviting Disney guests and tourists to the Disney Classics Theater.
He recorded voice-overs for the 1995 film Apollo 13, modifying the script he was given to make it more \\\"Cronkitian\\\".
For years, Cronkite has hosted the annual Vienna New Years Concert on PBS. For many years, until 2005, he was also the host of the annual Kennedy Center Honors.
On February 15, 2005, he went into the studio at CBS to record narration for WCC Chatham Radio, a documentary about Guglielmo Marconi and his Chatham station, which became the busiest ship-to-shore wireless station in North America from 1914 to 1994. The documentary was directed by Christopher Seufert of Mooncusser Films and premiered at the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center in April of 2005.
Since May 2005, he has been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post.
On March 1, 2006, Cronkite became the first non-astronaut to receive NASAs Ambassador of Exploration Award.  
Cronkite is a supporter of the anti-War on Drugs Drug Policy Alliance and the nonprofit world hunger organization Heifer International. His distinctive voice provides narration for the television ads of the University of Texas at Austin, his alma mater. Cronkite is also an avid sailor and a member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, with the honorary rank of commodore.
\\\"Uncle Walter\\\" has recently hosted a number of TV specials and been featured in interviews about the times and events that occurred during his career as Americas \\\"most trusted\\\" man. In July 2006, the 90-minute documentary \\\"Walter Cronkite: Witness to History\\\" aired on PBS. The special was narrated by Katie Couric, who assumed the CBS Evening News anchor chair in September 2006. Cronkite provides the voiceover introduction to Courics CBS Evening News, which began on September 5, 2006.
Cronkite has spoken his mind on several topics since his retirement:
On October 29, 2004, Walter Cronkite appeared on CNNs Larry King Live television program. The program aired just four days before the 2004 Presidential Election.
In 2003, Cronkite, who owns property on Marthas Vineyard, became involved in a long-running debate, expressing his opposition to the construction of a wind farm in that area.
Cronkite appeared in the 2004 Robert Greenwald film Outfoxed, where he offered commentary on the alleged unethical and overtly political practices at the FOX News Channel. Cronkite remarked that when FOX News was founded by Rupert Murdoch, \\\"it was intended to be a conservative organization - beyond that; a far-right wing organization.\\\"
In his column, he has repeatedly condemned President George W. Bushs 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 1998, he befriended President Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial. He has also been a proponent of world government, penning fundraising letters for the World Federalist Association (now Citizens for Global Solutions). In accepting the 1999 Norman Cousins Global Governance Award at the ceremony at the United Nations, Cronkite said:
It seems to many of us that if we are to avoid the eventual catastrophic world conflict we must strengthen the United Nations as a first step toward a world government patterned after our own government with a legislature, executive and judiciary, and police to enforce its international laws and keep the peace. To do that, of course, we Americans will have to yield up some of our sovereignty. That would be a bitter pill. It would take a lot of courage, a lot of faith in the new order. But the American colonies did it once and brought forth one of the most nearly perfect unions the world has ever seen.
On January , 2006, during a press conference to promote the PBS documentary about his career, Cronkite said that he felt the same way about Americas presence in Iraq as he had about their presence in Vietnam in 1968, and that he felt America should recall its troops. This statement met with much criticism.