JOURNALIST, NEWS ANCHOR
“And that’s the way it is.”
One of the most famous Missourians of all time, Walter Cronkite was known as the “Most Trusted Man in America” for more than five decades. The Missouri native traveled the world to show Americans what was happening in places they would never see in person. For three decades he practically wrote the book on being a news anchor as America turned to him to learn of the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and President John F. Kennedy. He was with the American people through practically every event of his tenure, from the Watergate scandal to the first American landing on the moon.
THE EARLY YEARS
Walter LeLand Cronkite, Jr., was born in St. Joseph on November 4, 1916. His family moved during his childhood first to Kansas City and then south to Houston, Texas, where he attended middle and high school. His interest in the news business blossomed when he took a job selling newspapers during his school years. After graduating from high school, he went on to get his formal journalism education at the University of Texas.
RISE TO FAME
Cronkite enrolled in the University of Texas in 1933 but stayed at the school only a couple of years. He had already worked part time at the Houston Post during high school and college and decided to pursue his news career full time instead of completing his degree. His duties at the paper put him back at the university, where he worked as the Post’s campus correspondent.
A visit to see his grandparents in Missouri the next year landed him a new career and ultimately a wife. He accepted a job as a “one-man band” news reporter and sports anchor with KCMO radio station in Kansas City. There he met an advertising writer named Betsy Maxwell, whom he later married. But his time in Missouri would once again be short lived. He joined the United Press in 1937 and covered World War II battles in North Africa and Europe. He also covered the Nuremburg trials after the close of the war and served as chief reporter in Moscow for two years.
SHOW ME SUCCESS
Cronkite next joined the upstart CBS News operation in 1950 as a Washington correspondent and anchor of political coverage. His big break came when he assumed the role as news anchor of the CBS Evening News on April 16, 1962. He became a national icon when CBS expanded the evening news from fifteen minutes to half an hour the year after he took over the helm. He launched the new extended format in front of millions of viewers with an interview with President John F. Kennedy. Two months later, millions more saw Cronkite become visibly upset on the anchor desk as he announced the news that President Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas, Texas.
During his years at CBS, he covered practically every major event of the day, from Vietnam to Watergate, coronations to assassinations, and perhaps his personal favorite, space travel. Cronkite’s expertise on the space program gave him unique insight into the Apollo XI landing on the moon, as well as his later coverage of John Glenn’s second trip into space in 1998.
Even though his retirement was a national event in 1980, Cronkite continued to cover the news on a part-time basis. He also tried his hand at other roles including a syndicated newspaper columnist, the voice character of Benjamin Franklin on an animated children’s TV show, a contributor to numerous news programs, and an outspoken advocate of liberal causes. His popularity waned very little after he left the anchor desk and was voted the “Most Trusted Man in Television News” in 1995, nearly fifteen years after his official retirement.
*Cronkite appears at Walt Disney World in the attraction the Magic of Disney Animation.
*His nickname is “Old Iron Pants” because of his calmness under pressure.
*He was awarded a special George Foster Peabody Award for his contributions to broadcast journalism and has been inducted
into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.
*He was awarded the Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter, the nation’s highest award to a civilian.
*He has authored books about sailing, and in 1996 he wrote his best-selling autobiography, A Reporter’s Life.