Walter L. Cronkite Jr., internationally renowned as a news anchorman and correspondent for CBS news, was also regarded as a leading authority on the American manned space program. He brought the exciting early days of space exploration directly into homes in layman’s terms understood by everyone.
Born in St. Joseph, Missouri on November 4, 1916, Cronkite was raised in Houston, Texas. The son of a dentist, he graduated from Houston’s San Jacinto High School in 1933 and enrolled at the University of Texas. Mr. Cronkite began his career in journalism as a campus correspondent at The Houston Post during high school. He also worked as a sports announcer for a radio station in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and in 1937, joined the United Press, where he remained for eleven years.
Cronkite joined CBS News in 1950, working on a variety of programs, including covering every national political convention and election from 1952 to 1981. He was one of the original creators of the CBS Evening News in 1962. He anchored that broadcast until his 1981 retirement.
The public’s perception of him as honest and objective led to his popular title as “the most trusted man in America.” His nightly sign-off, “And that’s the way it is,” was his trademark. His voice enthusiastically narrated the U.S. manned space program and was one of relative trust during the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. Cronkite was one of the foremost boosters of America’s technological prowess, anchoring CBS’ coverage of the flight of Apollo 11. His vaunted objectivity momentarily left him as he shouted, “Go, Baby, Go,” as the mission rocketed into space. Cronkite believed the exploration of space as one of the most important events of the future, and his coverage of the space shots was as long on information as it was on his famed endurance. Cronkite was on the air for 27 of the 30 hours that CBS devoted to its Apollo 11 coverage.
Walter Cronkite was the only journalist to be voted among the top ten “most influential decision-makers in America” in surveys conducted by U.S. News and World Report and also was named the “most influential person” in broadcasting. And, in a nationwide viewer opinion survey conducted as recently as 1995, more than a decade after leaving the CBS anchor desk, he again was voted “Most Trusted Man in Television News.”
In addition to his ongoing assignments as a special correspondent for CBS, Mr. Cronkite hosted many public affairs and cultural programs for PBS and syndication. In 1993 he co-founded The Cronkite Ward Company, which has produced more than 40 award-winning documentaries for The Discovery Channel, PBS, and other networks. Asteroid 6318 Cronkite is named in his honor. On March 1, 2006, Walter Cronkite became the first non-astronaut to receive NASA’s Ambassador of Exploration Award. Walter Cronkite died on July 17, 2009, at his home in New York City.