Walter Cronkite Dead at Age 92
Walter Cronkite, the journalist who was known by many as the "most trusted man in America" during his time as the anchor of "The CBS Evening News," passed away today. He was 92.
“It is impossible to imagine CBS News, journalism or indeed America without Walter Cronkite,” Sean McManus, the president of CBS News, said in a statement. “More than just the best and most trusted anchor in history, he guided America through our crises, tragedies and also our victories and greatest moments.”
Mr. McManus added: “No matter what the news event was, Walter was always the consummate professional with an un-paralleled sense of compassion, integrity, humanity, warmth, and occasionally even humor. There will never be another figure in American history who will hold the position Walter held in our minds, our hearts and on the television. We were blessed to have this man in our lives and words cannot describe how much he will be missed by those of us at CBS News and by all of America.”
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 television's first nightly half-hour news program.
During the early part of his tenure anchoring the CBS Evening News, Cronkite competed against NBC's 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 Cronkite's 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 Cronkite's wire service experience, and in 1968, the CBS Evening News began to surpass The Huntley-Brinkley Report in viewership during the summer months.
In 1969, with Apollo 11, and later with Apollo 13, Cronkite received the best ratings and made CBS the most-watched television network for the missions.
He retired from the CBS Evening News in March of 1981:
"This is my last broadcast as the anchorman of The CBS Evening News; for me, it's a moment for which I long have planned, but which, nevertheless, comes with some sadness. For almost two decades, after all, we've been meeting like this in the evenings, and I'll miss that. But those who have made anything of this departure, I'm afraid have 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, I'm not even going away! I'll 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't fade away; they just keep coming back for more. And that's the way it is: Friday, March 6, 1981. I'll be away on assignment, and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years. Good night."
Cronkite was married for nearly sixty-five years to Betsy Maxwell Cronkite, whom he married on March 30, 1940. They remained together until her death on March 16, 2005. They have three children: Nancy Cronkite, Kathy Cronkite, and Walter (Chip) Cronkite III.