Walter Cronkite Dead at 92
Walter Cronkite has passed:
Walter Cronkite, the premier TV anchorman of the networks’ golden age who reported a tumultuous time with reassuring authority and came to be called “the most trusted man in America,” died Friday. He was 92. Cronkite’s longtime chief of staff, Marlene Adler, said Cronkite died at 7:42 p.m. at his Manhattan home surrounded by family. She said the cause of death was cerebral vascular disease.
Adler said, “I have to go now” before breaking down into what sounded like a sob. She said she had no further comment.
Cronkite was the face of the “CBS Evening News” from 1962 to 1981, when stories ranged from the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to racial and anti-war riots, Watergate and the Iranian hostage crisis.
It was Cronkite who read the bulletins coming from Dallas when Kennedy was shot Nov. 22, 1963, interrupting a live CBS-TV broadcast of the soap opera “As the World Turns.”
Cronkite was the broadcaster to whom the title “anchorman” was first applied, and he came so identified in that role that eventually his own name became the term for the job in other languages. (Swedish anchors are known as Kronkiters; In Holland, they are Cronkiters.)
“He was a great broadcaster and a gentleman whose experience, honesty, professionalism and style defined the role of anchor and commentator,” CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves said in a statement.
CBS has scheduled a prime-time special, “That’s the Way it Was: Remembering Walter Cronkite,” for 7 p.m. Sunday.
His 1968 editorial declaring the United States was “mired in stalemate” in Vietnam was seen by some as a turning point in U.S. opinion of the war. He also helped broker the 1977 invitation that took Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem, the breakthrough to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.
He followed the 1960s space race with open fascination, anchoring marathon broadcasts of major flights from the first suborbital shot to the first moon landing, exclaiming, “Look at those pictures, wow!” as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon’s surface in 1969. In 1998, for CNN, he went back to Cape Canaveral to cover John Glenn’s return to space after 36 years.
“It is impossible to imagine CBS News, journalism or indeed America without Walter Cronkite,” CBS News president Sean McManus 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.”
Cronkite lived to a ripe old age and his health had been failing, so this is hardly a shock. I wasn’t old enough during Vietnam for his controversial remarks to cloud my judgment of his career, which mostly came in the last five or so years of his time as anchor and then as elder statesman.
It’s often said that there will never be another like someone who has just passed on. In Cronkite’s case, it’s not hyperbole. He was universally respected but shuffled out the door far too early, just toward the end of the period when people were simply expected to go away when the reached a certain age. At roughly the time same, David Brinkley, Harry Reasoner, and John Chancellor were moved along, too, with then-youngsters Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, and Tom Brokaw brought in to fill their chairs. All of them did so with distinction but they never occupied the same central role that the previous generation had. And none will be anywhere near as powerful as even they were. Katie Couric could well be the last anchor at CBS News; in any event, no one will much care.
And that’s the way it was, Friday, July 17, 2009.