July 18, 2009
Walter Cronkite talks to a packed audience at the Newseum in 1997. (Newseum collection)

Walter Cronkite talks to a packed audience at the Newseum in 1997. (Newseum collection)

Remembering Walter Cronkite

CBS News legend Walter Cronkite, once called "the most trusted man in America," died Friday, July 17. He was 92.

In an age when a growing number of viewers now turn to comedy TV shows for "fake" news, Cronkite — "Uncle Walter" to his loyal fans — was the real deal.

He was born on Nov. 4, 1916, in St. Joseph, Mo., and raised in Houston, Texas. His interest in journalism began in high school, where he worked for the school newspaper. He started his journalism career as a nonpaid campus correspondent for The Houston Post. Later, working for United Press, he was among the more than 1,600 U.S. journalists who covered World War II from start to finish.

In 1950, Cronkite was hired by CBS News. In 1962, he became anchor of the "CBS Evening News." The following year, the program, renamed the "CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite, was expanded from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. Using his signature sign-off — "And that’s the way it is" — Cronkite shepherded the nation through nearly every significant news event of our time.

When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, it was Cronkite’s emotional announcement of the president’s death that became television’s lasting image of the tragedy.

After visiting Southeast Asia in 1968 to learn firsthand what was going on in the increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam, he later declared in a rare editorial that the United States should negotiate a way out of the war. President Lyndon B. Johnson understood the impact of Cronkite’s views.

"If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America," he said.

Said Cronkite: "It was time for me to cash in on all this trust people say they have for me."

When Neil Armstrong became the first human to step on the moon, Cronkite giddily declared on air: "There’s a foot on the moon. … Look at those pictures. Wow!"

Cronkite retired from CBS in 1981. Perhaps expressing the sentiments of millions of TV viewers at the time, a T-shirt worn by a fan in Los Angeles exclaimed, "Oh my God, what are we going to do without Walter Cronkite?"

Cronkite was a frequent participant in Newseum programs. His contributions to journalism are explored in these Newseum galleries:

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