Walter Cronkite was the king of newscasters during the 1960s and into the early 1980s. So familiar was his face and voice that many polls over the years named him the “most trusted man in America.” Even Presidents paid attention to what he had to say on the CBS Evening News, to the extent that Lyndon Johnson once opined “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America,” in reference to the Vietnam War.
While Walter Cronkite is a titan among network newscasters, his broadcast career began as a radio announcer in a small market in Oklahoma City after dropping out of college during the 1930s. Soon after, he got a job as a sportscaster for KCMO-AM radio in Kansas City, Missouri, and announced “live” baseball and football games by using telegraphed information and embellishing whenever necessary due to the telegraph wire going down, sometimes for minutes at a time. Cronkite’s early experience helped to establish the level of cool, collected, and intelligent coverage that he would exhibit throughout his career.
World War II Correspondent
Cronkite left the radio station to go to work for the UPI wire service in 1937 and became a relatively famous war correspondent for his coverage of actions in North Africa and Europe. He covered many famous battles, flew on bombing missions, rode in a glider during the airborne invasion of Holland, huddled with troops during the Battle of the Bulge, and covered the Nuremberg trials when the war concluded.
Walter Cronkite also became the lead UPI reporter in Moscow during the post war years, cementing his position as one of the nation’s most experienced and accomplished international reporters.
Early Television News Pioneer
Television began its growth around the nation during the 1950’s and Walter Cronkite was there almost from the start by joining the fledging television division of CBS News in 1950. His television career began at the network’s affiliate in the nation’s capital, where he anchored a 15-minute Sunday night newscast in 1951 and 1952. Cronkite also covered the Republican and Democratic national conventions and covered Dwight D. Eisenhower’s successful bid to become president in 1952.
In addition to newscasts and covering important events, Cronkite also hosted the historically based You Are There television program that ran on CBS from 1953 to 1957 and years later hosted its counterpart The Twentieth Century, which was revived in 1971. The latter show relied heavily on newsreel footage with narration by Cronkite while retelling many of the most important historical events of the 20th century.
CBS Evening News Anchor
Without question, Cronkite’s greatest achievement was serving as anchor of CBS News from 1962 through 1981. The evening newscast gained a reputation as the most accurate and informative of the three major networks and established Walter Cronkite as the most trusted man in America.
The many famous events he presented to the nation include the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War, the Apollo moon landing in 1969, and Pres. Richard Nixon’s resignation.