Wednesday 28 October 2015

Walter Cronkite: The Most Trusted Man in America

"Whatever the cost of libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation." 
(Walter Cronkite)

As a little boy in Kansas City in the 1920's, Walter Cronkite was fascinated by an American Boy magazine article detailing the adventures of a roving reporter who travelled the globe.  He wanted to be that reporter.  "Naturally curious and observant, he kept a notebook throughout his youth to record daily observations and often researched in encyclopedias to learn about subjects that interested him." (

While Cronkite's father held a well paying job as a dentist, life came crashing to a halt when the Great Depression arrived and his patients could no longer pay their bills.  Walter's father started drinking to cope and became an alcoholic.  Within three years, the Cronkite's separated and Walter and his mother struck out on their own.  

In high school, Walter wrote for the school newspaper and yearbook.  In 1933, he entered the University of Texas, majoring in Political Science, Economics and Journalism.  The life of a student, however, wasn't for Walter and after a couple of years, he quit to pursue a job with the Houston Post.  Later, he worked as both a radio announcer in Kansas City and a sportscaster in Oklahoma City.  

By World War II, Walter covered the battlefield in Europe from a plane, even shooting a gun at a German plane.  "I used to think that life wasn't worth living if I couldn't get in on the action," explained the young reporter (  At war's end, Walter was given the important assignment of covering the Nuremburg Trials, a job which lasted until 1946.  

In 1952, Walter started covering the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, a tradition that would continue for the next 30 years.  With the position came recognition.  "Soon he was more famous than the candidates he was covering," explained Todd Barnett.  Cronkite became known for his hard work, accuracy and impartiality.  He spent long hours on the job, earning him the nickname "Iron Pants".  During the 1950's, Cronkite also anchored the weekend edition of the CBS Evening News.  

In 1962, Cronkite was rewarded for his hard work, earning the anchor position of the CBS Evening News.  While NBC's Hunter Brinkley Report had always earned the number one rating, Cronkite soon usurped that position.  The anchor covered such life altering events as John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963, the war in Vietnam, and the Apollo 11 Moon Landing in 1969.  While Cronkite prided himself on his impartiality, the public appreciated his humanity when his eyes welled up with tears after JFK's death announcement, and when he reported Neil Armstrong's "One small step for man" with excitement in his voice.  

As Cronkite came into America's living rooms during the 1960's and 1970's, people felt like they knew him.  A poll declared Cronkite "The most trusted man in America."  However, in 1981, due to the mandatory retirement age of 65, Cronkite bid America goodnight one last time with the words:  "And that's the way it is."

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