Walter Cronkite

Biography

Date of Birth 4 November 1916, St. Joseph, Missouri, USA Date of Death 17 July 2009, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA (cerebrovascular disease) Birth Name Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. Nickname Uncle Walter Walter Wilcox The Most Trusted Man in America Height 6' (1.83 m) Spouse Mary Elizabeth "Betsy" Maxwell (27 March 1940 - 16 March 2005) (her death) 3 children Trade Mark Always closed his newscasts by saying "And that's the way it is" Trivia Journalist since 1937; with CBS television since 1950. Was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981. This is the highest honor a U.S. civilian can receive. Was the lead anchor on the CBS Evening News from 16 April 1962 until 6 March 1981. Reported on the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals in 1945. Is the 1966 recipient of the prestigious Connor Award given by the brothers of the Phi Alpha Tau fraternity based out of Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also an honorary brother of the fraternity. Satirized by Ray Goulding as "Walter Chronic" in Cold Turkey (1971). December 2003 - Underwent surgery to repair a previously injured achilles tendon. Makes a unique claim about his television career. When he attended 1933 World's Fair, he was present at an exhibit displaying an early example of television. At the exhibit, the attendees were allowed to sit in front of the camera and watch themselves on the screen. When Cronkite sat in front of the camera he did an improptu impression of a man he had seen playing two flutes at once. Therefore, he jokingly claims that he was definitely on television decades before his contemporaries. Attended both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in 1928. The former was on a boy scout field trip and the latter was during a visit to his grandparents in Kansas City. CBS asked Cronkite to come up with a signature closing line for the evening news. When he came up with "And that's the way it is", CBS was concerned that it would suggest a certain infallability. But Cronkite explained that it would fit any type of story whether it was funny or sad or ironic. His first job as a journalist was as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Times. His stage name during his days in radio was Walter Wilcox. The very day he was born, his father immediately left the hospital and went out and voted for President Woodrow Wilson. His mother Helen died in 1993 at the age of 101. Father-in-law of Deborah Rush. In 1964 he was fired from his anchorman duties at the Democratic National Convention. CBS had gotten a new president who had never worked on a presidential campaign and had definate ideas about how CBS would be covering it. It turned out to be a mess and as a result Cronkite got some of the blame so the network executives removed him from the coverage but kept him as the anchorman of the evening news. Jokingly Cronkite became buddies with the president of NBC and the people at CBS were horrified that he was being offered a job in the rival network. So when the Republican Convention rolled around Cronkite got to cover it without using the new president's tactics. At the birth of television, he and his team at CBS practically invented the institution of the evening news program. In 1951, one of the stage managers at CBS told him to sit at the desk and do the news. Cronkite asked what he meant and the managers simply said "I don't know just do it". His idea was to first just talk to the camera like another person and organize the news stories in the same vein as the newspaper beginning with the top story and working his way down to human interest stories. Betsy Cronkite, his wife, was working as a newspaper journalist when they met. He is an only child. He met his wife Betsy when he was working at a radio station in Kansas City. The two were paired up to do a cosmetics commercial and married a year later. His family heritage is Dutch-Scottish. Father of Kathy Cronkite and Chip Cronkite. In 1997, released his autobiography, "A Reporter's Life", which coincided with a two-hour TV special, "Cronkite Remembers" (1997), in which he reminisced about his years as a reporter. A week later, an eight-hour version aired on The Discovery Channel. On March 15, 2005 he lost his wife of 64 years, Betsy, three weeks before their 65th anniversary. Is a licensed amateur (ham) radio operator with the call sign KB2GSD. He is outspoken in his distaste for Oliver Stone's film JFK (1991). Calling the film "Oliver Stone junk" and "A dangerous work of fiction that seriously mid-leads a whole generation of Americans who were not alive at that time". Father was Walter Cronkite Sr., a dentist. Mother was Helen Cronkite who died in 1993 at the age of 101. While attending The University of Texas, one of his pastimes was acting in student plays. In one of them, he co-starred with Eli Wallach. He dropped out of UT to become a journalist. On the day of the Kennedy assassination, he said the he had just come back from lunch and was standing at the teletype machine when rang a rare five bells - a bulletin. He shouted "Let's get on the air!" but getting on the air wasn't possible because the cameras had to be placed and then warmed up (after this, the networks always had a camera ready in the newsroom). He went to an audio booth just off the newsroom floor and, interrupting "As the World Turns" (1956), made an audio announcement over a CBS logo. It took another 20 minutes to get on camera. Has a Muppet on "Sesame Street" (1969) named after him, the grouch journalist "Walter Cranky". In 1969 when Apollo XI was going to the Moon, Cronkite was on the air 27 of the 30 hours that it took for the flight, which many in the profession called "Walter to Walter" coverage. At the moment that Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder of the Lunar Module onto the Moon surface, Cronkite was speechless for the first time in his career. All he could say was "Wow!" and "Oh Boy!". Famous words that will live in history. Attended Lanier Junior High School in Houston, Texas. Another famous ex-student was Linda Ellerbee. Attended San Jacinto High School in Houston, Texas with Marvin Zindler. Provided the voice over introduction "This is the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric". Moved to Houston, Texas when he was 10-years-old. Worked at the Houston Post as a copy boy, cub reporter and had a paper route. Some time before his death Cronkite's family reveled that he was suffering from cerebrovascular disease. His ancestors had settled in New Amsterdam, the Dutch colony that became New York. When he was 16 he went to Chicago's 1933 World's Fair. He volunteered to help demonstrate an experimental version of television. Longtime boyfriend of Joanna Simon until his death in August, 2009. According to Cronkite's autobiography, his mother Helen Fitzche dated Douglas MacArthur as a teenager. The future general asked her to marry him but her father would not allow it because he felt MacArthur was too old for her. Cronkite asked the General about it one night at a party and his only response was "Ah, yes. Helen Fitzche." and walked away. Inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians in 1999. Personal Quotes It is increasingly clear that the only rational way out will be to negotiate, not as victors but as an honorable people who lived up to the pledge to defend democracy." (Cronkite's famous quote after the disastrous North Vietnamese Tet Offensive, which many say was the turning point in the Vietnam Conflict. President Lyndon Johnson, upon hearing Cronkite pull his support for further military involvement, is quoted as saying, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America. The great sadness of my life is that I never achieved the hour newscast, which would not have been twice as good as the half-hour newscast, but many times as good. And that's the way it is, March 6, 1981. [Sign-off line on his last night as anchor] Everything is being compressed into tiny tablets. You take a little pill of news every day - 23 minutes - and that's supposed to be enough. [on the superficiality of television news] [About George Bush] I like George Bush, he seemed to be a straight arrow, the sort you'd like to have as your lawyer or your banker or as a friend. And of course, he had Barbara. [About President Clinton] "Clinton, I've not come to know that well, but in my one sit-down interview with him, I found him forthcoming and humorous." [About the Presidents that he met] "They were all giant egos, anxious about their place in history" [About President Johnson] "It has been said, and truthfully so, that Lyndon Johnson was larger than life. You felt in his presence that here was raw power capable of lifting great weights and crushing enemies." [About President Nixon] "Nixon, to me, never seemed comfortable in the Presidency. He always seemed to be acting out a rehearsed role. I thought I could see his knees knocking with stage fright" [About President Ford] "Ford was the genuine good fellow well met. He was the guy you wish you had known in college." [About President Carter] "Carter, I think, was the brainiest President of my time, not in political ability but intelligence that could store and recall an incredible amount of complicated material." [About President Reagan] "In Reagan, what you saw was what you got. Without surrendering the dignity of the office he maintained that hail-fellow comradeship of the locker room. He was fun to be with, shady stories and all." [About President Hoover] "Herbert Hoover seemed to me about as stiff in person as he was in public. A highly intelligent man, dedicated to public service who just couldn't connect with the average man" [About FDR] "With his radio talks and his fireside chats he brought all Americans into the White House. At the times I saw him, at his informal news conferences, he could be tough with questioning reporters but he usually ended the exchange with a wide grin or with a hearty laugh. He seemed to say, in the manner of a sporting man, 'Well tried, sir'" [About President Truman] "Truman never shucked the image of a country boy in the big city. But in his self-confident righteousness, he impressed you with the courage of a lion" [About President Eisenhower] "Eisenhower made political enemies of course but he never lost the aura of the war hero. In doing his memoirs for television with me, he revealed a great deal more detailed knowledge of the arcane decisions of his administration than the press generally gave him credit for." [About President Kennedy] "Kennedy could be as charming in public as he had been in private. But he had another side, a certain attitude of superiority, an arrogance that I found disturbing." [About Oliver Stone's JFK (1991)] Stone combines real and fictional footage in a very clever way that completely obliterates the truth. He uses my announcement of the President's death to provide an air of reality that he avoids for the rest of the picture. His preposterous theory is that top echelons of the United States government committed the Kennedy murder in order to put Lyndon Johnson in the White House. That work of fiction is dangerous, it seriously misleads a whole generation of Americans who were not alive at that time. [About announcing President Kennedy's death] "At that moment I teared up, I just had a little trouble getting the words out." [Looking back at the 20th Century] "I had a pretty good seat at the parade. I was lucky enough to have been born at the right time to see most of this remarkable century." [The day President Harding died] "The Kansas City Times had a big picture of President Harding with a black border around it. So I ran down the street to my best friend's house and I said 'Alfred, take a look because that's the last picture you'll ever see of President Harding'. I don't know where I got that crazy idea but it proved early in life that I could pontificate even when wrong." I only met Martin Luther King on a few occasions but I was always struck by the obvious force, the power of his character which is clearly what the Civil Rights movement needed at that point. I got along pretty well with Nixon. Whenever he promised me an interview he delivered and I didn't make his famed "Enemies List". I'm still sort of ambivalent about that. I firmly believe in the necessity of military censorship but there is considerable danger to the democracy when in the guise of military censorship our government engages in political censorship. I am probably not that different from most reporters, highly competitive, always determined to get that big story. The big story is always the one that's just a little bit out of reach. In broadcasting, I learned the hard way how prepared you need to be to be spontaneous. They're still playing our song and have been for over 60 years. [About his wife Betsy] I learned at an early age how to pontificate even when wrong. Twenty-four hours after I told CBS News that I was stepping down at my 65th birthday I was already regretting it and I've regretted it every day since. It's too good a job for me to have given it up the way that I did. Where Are They Now (1 April 1997) Undergoes quadruple bypass surgery in a New York hospital. (1971) Release of his book, "Eye on the World". (1991) Release of the book, "Walter Cronkite: His Life and Times" by Doug James. (1996) Release of his book, "A Reporter's Life". (2001) Release of his book, "Around America: A Tour of Our Magnificent Coastline". (2000) Release of his audiobook, "Cronkite Remembers".

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Person Photo

Birth Name

Walter Leland Cronkite Jr.

Birth Place

St. Joseph, Missouri, États-Unis

Birth Date

11/4/1916

Death Date

7/17/2009
Known For
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Fail Safe

Self - Host

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The Dream Is Alive

Narrator (voice)

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The Beatles - The First U.S. Visit

Himself (CBS News) (uncredited) (archive footage) (voice)

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A Bright Shining Lie

Himself (reports on Ia Drang battle) (voice) (archive footage) (uncredited)

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What Happened, Miss Simone?

Himself (archive footage)

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Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony

Self (voice)

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SOS Planet (3-D Large Format)

Narrator

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Liberty's Kids - The First Fourth of July

Ben Franklin

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Korean War Stories

Host / Narrator

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The Nuremberg War Crime Trials

Himself

Starring In
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The Space Race

Self (archive footage)

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JFK: What the Doctors Saw

Self - CBS Evening News (archive footage)

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Being Mary Tyler Moore

Self (archive footage)

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Louis Armstrong's Black & Blues

(voice)

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JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass

Self (archive footage)

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Attica

Self (archive footage) (uncredited)

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The Mystery of D.B. Cooper

Self (archive footage)

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Jay Sebring.... Cutting to the Truth

Self (archive footage)

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Where's My Roy Cohn?

Himself (archive footage)

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Apollo 11

Himself (archive footage)

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Apollo: Missions to the Moon

Himself (archive footage)

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Entebbe

Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Reversing Roe

Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)

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The Reagan Show

Self (archive footage)

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The Fabulous Allan Carr

Self (archive footage)

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13th

Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)

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What Happened, Miss Simone?

Himself (archive footage)

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Best of Enemies

Himself (archive footage)

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Led Zeppelin Played Here

Self - Newscaster (archive footage)

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The 50 Year Argument

Self - Broadcaster (archive footage)

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Nixon by Nixon: In His Own Words

Self (archive footage)

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Our Man in Tehran

Self (archive footage)

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Lovelace

Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Our Nixon

Himself (archive footage)

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The Man Who Saved The World

Himself

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Ethel

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Super 8

Self - CBS News Anchor (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Magic & Bird: A Courtship Of Rivals

Himself (archive footage)

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Milk

Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Larry Flynt: The Right to Be Left Alone

Himself (archive footage)

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In The Shadow Of The Moon

Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Oswald's Ghost

Himself (archive footage)

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The U.S. vs. John Lennon

Self

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Sir! No Sir! - The Suppressed Story of the GI Movement to End the War in Vietnam

Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)

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The Story Of Star Wars

Himself - Journalist

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JFK: Breaking the News

Himself (archive footage)

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Going Upriver - The Long War of John Kerry

Himself (archive footage)

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Outfoxed - Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism

Himself

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Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed

Self (archive footage)

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SOS Planet (3-D Large Format)

Narrator

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Added Attractions: The Hollywood Shorts Story

Self (uncredited)

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The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia

Himself (archive sound)

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Liberty's Kids - The First Fourth of July

Ben Franklin

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Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony

Self (voice)

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Path to War

Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)

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The Long Way Home

Himself (UPI, covers Nuremberg trial) (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Jackie, Ethel, Joan: The Women of Camelot

Self - Announces Death of JFK (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Korean War Stories

Host / Narrator

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Fail Safe

Self - Host

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Thirteen Days

Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)

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The Dish

Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)

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The Source

Himself (archive footage)

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A Bright Shining Lie

Himself (reports on Ia Drang battle) (voice) (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Image of an Assassination: A New Look at the Zapruder Film

Himself (announces death of JFK) (archive footage) (uncredited)

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4 Little Girls

Himself (Special Correspondent CBS News)

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The Nuremberg War Crime Trials

Himself

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Apollo 13

Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)

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The Troubles We've Seen: A History of Journalism in Wartime

Self

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We're Back! - A Dinosaur's Story

Captain Neweyes (voice)

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Love Field

Himself - Reports on Assassination of JFK (archive footage) (uncredited)

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JFK

Self (archive footage) (uncredited)

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The Beatles - The First U.S. Visit

Himself (CBS News) (uncredited) (archive footage) (voice)

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The Dream Is Alive

Narrator (voice)

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Kerouac, the Movie

Self - Reports Death of Kerouac (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Network

Himself (news anchorman) (archive footage) (uncredited)

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