Walter Cronkite: America’s Anchorman

July 18, 2009

On February 3, 1959 when a plane crash killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson, it became known as “The Day the Music Died.”   I wonder what July 17, 2009 will become known as?

Click picture for CBS report on the life of Walter Cronkite

Click picture for CBS report on the life of Walter Cronkite

When Walter Cronkite died, television news lost its quintessential anchor man, the ultimate authority and yes, sometimes father-figure to millions of viewers around the world.  He witnessed decades of history, and every night told us “That’s the way it is.”  When I was growing up, TV news was appointment television and my family had an appointment with Mr. Cronkite every weeknight at 6:30.  He was called “the most trusted man in America” and at no time was that more evident than in 1968 when he said on the air that the Vietnam War could not be won.  President Lyndon Johnson is quoted as saying “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost America.”

Walter Cronkite was in equal parts serious, authoritative and warm with a dose of daredevil thrown in for good measure.  He put himself in the middle of World War II to cover it for United Press International, landing ashore on D-Day, parachuting with the 101st Airborne, and flying a bombing mission over Germany.  

On November 22, 1963–19 months after he became the anchorman for The CBS Evening News–he had the task of interrupting programming to tell the nation that President Kennedy had been shot and killed.  We saw then what truly set Walter Cronkite apart: he took off his glasses and wiped away a tear, sharing Americans’ heartbreak at losing their President. 

My very first memory of Walter Cronkite came in 1969 when I was four.  My dad woke me up to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.  I didn’t really know what was going on, but I could tell by Walter Cronkite’s childlike excitement this was something BIG, something I would never forget, and I never did. 

Space travel was always Walter Cronkite’s passion and in 1998 when then 77 year old John Glenn made another historic trip into space aboard the space shuttle Discovery, Cronkite was there, 81 years old, covering it for CNN.  My colleague Dick Berry covered the story for WTOL and interviewed Cronkite about his fascination with space travel.  He told Dick  “What I’d really like to do is go up to the moon. I’d like to see the earth rise over that moon horizon, that great blue globe, the only color in that whole dark of space.  It must be a tremendous sight.”

Enjoy the view, Mr. Cronkite.



  1. Walter was when news was news. If he broke into our regular scheduled program it was important news. I could not believe a few yrs. ago I was watching tv and the breaking news story was that Britney Spears filed for divorce. Mr. Conckite was
    a true journalist and I loved watching this weekends coverage of “his life”. How ironic that tomorrow is the 40th annivesary of American men landing on the moon. Some things take people out of retirement and I thought I would wake up tomorrow and see him on the news talking about his news coverage of 40 years ago. As much as all the news footage I saw regarding Mr. Cronkite, I am a sucker for love and I appreciate the love he had for his wife of 65 yrs. She passed away in 2005 may they RIP together. And that’s the way it is!

  2. This is a lovely memorial piece: well crafted. Thank-you for the memory.

  3. Chyrs, what a beautiful tribute! CBS News with Walter Cronkite was our family’s appointment too. I always missed him after he retired. The news just never seemed t he same. He brought a touch of the human spirit when he gave the news. Todays news people tend to show their conservative or libral views and incorporate them into the story that they are telling. Walter Cronkite never did. He told you what happened, why it happened, when it happened and who was respondsible, he did it to the point, yet he did it with humanity. Maybe July 17th will be known as the day that the Father of Reporting died. wonderful job Chrys, thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: