Walter Cronkite, “Americas most trusted man”, gravely ill

June 19th, 2009 - 11:49 pm ICT by John Le Fevre  

Walter Cronkite in vietnam Walter Cronkite, the former CBS news anchor who guided America through the Vietnam War and US president John F. Kennedy’s assassination is reported to be gravely ill.

According to unconfirmed reports CBS last week began updating the obituary for the 92-year-old newsman who anchored the CBS Evening News for 19 years.

Constantly cited in opinion polls, Cronkite was regarded as the “Most Trusted Man in America”.

Born in Saint Joseph, Missouri, Cronkite began his journalism career in 1935 and then moved to radio, before joining the United Press in 1937. He covered World War II in North Africa and Europe and was one of eight journalists selected to fly bombing raids over Germany in a B-17 Flying Fortress.

When Operation Market-Garden, one of the largest airborne assaults of the war commenced, Cronkite was there too, landing in a glider with the 101st Airborne unit and going through to cover the Battle of the Bulge.

After the war, he covered the Nuremberg trials, and served as the United Press main reporter in Moscow for two years.

In 1950, Walter Cronkite joined CBS News in its embryonic television division, at WTOP-TV, the CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C. and in 1962 succeeded Douglas Edwards as anchorman of the CBS Evening News – a role which made him an American icon.

Invariably, because of his reputation for accuracy, he was the voice American’s turned to for news on the Cuban missile crisis, the assassination of president John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the Apollo 11 Moon landing, and the Watergate scandal.

Following Cronkite’s editorial report during the Tet Offensive that the Vietnam War was unwinnable, President Lyndon Johnson is reported to have said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”

Beginning January 16, 1980, “Day 50″ of the Iran hostage crisis, Cronkite added the length of the hostages’ captivity to the show’s closing to remind the audience of the unresolved situation, ending only on “Day 444″, January 20, 1981.

In addition to his accuracy and professionalism, Americans trusted Cronkite because he was easy to understand.

Cronkite is reported to have trained himself to speak at a rate of 124 words per minute in his newscasts, considerably slower than the average of 165 words per minute most people speak at.

One of Cronkite’s trademarks was ending the CBS Evening News with the phrase, “…And that’s the way it is” followed by the days date.

Walter Cronkite remained anchor of CBS until 1981 when he was succeeded by Dan Rather.

At the end of his final broadcast, Cronkite said in part, “Furthermore, I’m not even going away! I’ll be back from time to time with special news reports and documentaries.

“Old anchormen, you see, don’t fade away; they just keep coming back for more. And that’s the way it is: Friday, March 6, 1981.”

Cronkite was married for nearly 65-years to Betsy Maxwell Cronkite, until her death in 2005. They have three children: Nancy Cronkite, Kathy Cronkite, and Walter (Chip) Cronkite III (who is married to actress Deborah Rush).

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