Walter Cronkite, an iconic CBS News journalist who defined the role of anchorman for a generation of television viewers, died Friday at the age of 92, his family said.
“My father Walter Cronkite died,” his son Chip said just before 8 p.m. Eastern. CBS interrupted prime time programming to show an obituary for the man who defined the network’s news division for decades.
Mr. Cronkite’s family said last month that he was seriously ill with cerebrovascular disease.
Mr. Cronkite anchored the “CBS Evening News” from 1962 to 1981, at a time when television became the dominant medium of the United States. He figuratively held the hand of the American public during the civil rights movement, the space race, the Vietnam war, and the impeachment of Richard Nixon. During his tenure, network newscasts were expanded to 30 minutes from 15.
“It is impossible to imagine CBS News, journalism or indeed America without Walter Cronkite,” Sean McManus, the president of CBS News, said in a statement. “More than just the best and most trusted anchor in history, he guided America through our crises, tragedies and also our victories and greatest moments.”
Mr. McManus added: “No matter what the news event was, Walter was always the consummate professional with an un-paralleled sense of compassion, integrity, humanity, warmth, and occasionally even humor. There will never be another figure in American history who will hold the position Walter held in our minds, our hearts and on the television. We were blessed to have this man in our lives and words cannot describe how much he will be missed by those of us at CBS News and by all of America.”
Mike Wallace, the “60 Minutes” correspondent emeritus, said simply in a statement, “We were proud to work with him — for him — we loved him.”
Reassurance was Mr. Cronkite’s stock in trade, the ability to convince viewers that when he was on the air all would turn out well.
In a review of Mr. Cronkite’s autobiography in 1997, the former New York Times columnist Tom Wicker wrote:
When John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas in 1963, Walter Cronkite stayed on the air for the Columbia Broadcasting System for countless hours. His performance that weekend helped pull together a nation stricken with grief and was a signal event in television’s evolution into the national nervous system.
When Mr. Cronkite came back from Vietnam after the Tet offensive of 1968, he concluded on national television that the war had become no better than a stalemate. Hearing that, President Lyndon Johnson told associates, ”If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” And he had. When Mr. Cronkite asked Robert Kennedy, then a senator from New York, whether he would run for President in 1968, Kennedy turned the tables: he proposed that Mr. Cronkite should run for the Senate. Mr. Cronkite refused, but the idea reflected polls showing that a journalist — a television journalist at that — had become the most trusted man in America.
Katie Couric, the current anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” said in a statement Friday night that Mr. Cronkite was so trusted “because he exhibited a sense of purpose and compassion, night after night. He was the personification of excellence.”
For his exhaustive and enthusiastic coverage of NASA, Mr. Cronkite was sometimes called “the eighth astronaut.” During the first moon landing in 1969, Mr. Cronkite “was on the air for 27 of the 30 hours that Apollo 11 took to complete its mission,” The Museum of Broadcast Communications notes.
Jennifer Mascia and Douglas Martin contributed reporting.
Now, the other side of Walter that many didn't know about.