Walter Cronkite retired just a few years before I was born and though my region of experience in my education as well as my still embryonic career is mostly in print and not broadcast journalism, the shadow of this man and the way he practiced his craft looms large nonetheless.
He was there with his pen guiding the people through World War II, was with America and the world standing almost hand and hand as we stepped into the static infant world of television broadcast news. Through the peril of the Cuban Missile crisis, the heartbreak of the Kennedy assassination, history’s anthem of Justice demanded in the Civil rights movement as citizens in masses arose to kill the segregation of Jim Crow and begin to cope with our racial strife. He asked the same questions and eventually came to the conclusion that a war waged half a world away was unwinnable, as the government sought to keep its citizens and soldiers in the dark about the truth. He was there to mourn again with the assassinations of the voice that struck every bigot with terror and every person of love and peace with inspiration Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and months later of Robert Kennedy. He voiced the outrage many felt when Chicago police took part in a riots against protesters outside the Democratic convention in 1968. He stood with us in awe as America (on this date forty years ago) expanded its frontiers beyond the bounds of earth and to the moon. He was there guiding us, as we all felt disgraced and disenchanted by the folly and corruption of the Watergate scandal. In 1976, he was there and with all Americans basked in the glory of America’s 200th birthday.
When we were all in a state of anxiety, as the economy teetered on disaster in the 1970s and early 1980s, and when the streets of New York were plunged into darkness by power outages, cast into fear with the ‘Son of Sam’ killer on the loose in New York City, and when U.S embassy staff in Iran were taken hostage; he was there alongside us counting the days and as always helping navigate a nation and a world through the turbulent seas of history.
Walter Cronkite, who pioneered and then mastered the role of television news anchorman with such plain-spoken grace that he was called the most trusted man in America, died Friday at his home in New York. He was 92.
The cause was complications of dementia, said Chip Cronkite, his son.
From 1962 to 1981, Mr. Cronkite was a nightly presence in American homes and always a reassuring one, guiding viewers through national triumphs and tragedies alike, from moonwalks to war, in an era when network news was central to many people’s lives.
He became something of a national institution, with an unflappable delivery, a distinctively avuncular voice and a daily benediction: “And that’s the way it is.” He was Uncle Walter to many: respected, liked and listened to. With his trimmed mustache and calm manner, he even bore a resemblance to another trusted American fixture, another Walter — Walt Disney.