Who is Walter Cronkite? - the man behind the legend of America’s most trusted man

June 20th, 2009 - 2:40 am ICT by John Le Fevre  

Walter Cronkite in vietnam Walter Cronkite is an American broadcast journalist, best known as anchorman for the CBS Evening News and the person who shaped and guided America through the 70s and 80s.

Even long after his retirement the name Walter Cronkite inspires up images of credibility, authoritativeness and accuracy that is entirely befitting the person 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, 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.

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.”

Cronkite is vividly remembered by many Americans as breaking the news of president John Kennedy’s death on November 22, 1963 and also for his coverage of the US space program – rubbing his hands together on camera with a smile on July 20, 1969 when the Apollo 11 mission first landed man on the moon.

Though Cronkite added nothing new to his reports on the Watergate affair, he brought together a wide range of reporting, and his credibility and status is credited by many with pushing the Watergate story to the forefront of the American public – culminating in the resignation of US president Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974.

Cronkite also was one of the first to receive word of President Lyndon Johnson’s death

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.

Cronkite held the number one news anchor position and kept CBS Evening News as the top-rated news program for 11 years – until his retirement in 1981 when he was succeeded by Dan Rather.

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.

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.”

Since retiring the news anchor position he has continued to broadcast occasionally as a special correspondent for CBS, CNN, and NPR into the 21st century.

He repeatedly condemned President George W. Bush and the 2003 invasion of Iraq and in January 2006, said that he felt the same way about America’s presence in Iraq as he had about their presence in Vietnam in 1968 and that he felt America should recall its troops

He has also been critical of the US Governments failure to live up to its obligations to the United Nations, saying, “it is led by a handful of willful senators who choose to pursue their narrow, selfish political objectives at the cost of our nation’s conscience.

“They pander to and are supported by the Christian Coalition and the rest of the religious right wing.”

Cronkite is a supporter of the anti-War on Drugs Drug Policy Alliance and the nonprofit world hunger organization Heifer International.

Until her death in 2005, Cronkite was married to Betsy Maxwell Cronkite for almost 65-years. The marriage produced three children: Nancy Cronkite, Kathy Cronkite, and Walter (Chip) Cronkite III (who is married to actress Deborah Rush).

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