Walter Cronkite Biography

Walter Leland Cronkite was born on November 4, 1916. He was an only child. His father was a dentist and his mother, Helena Lena (Fritsch) managed the home. While he was still a youngster the family moved to Texas, where his father took a position at the University of Texas Dental School. During that time Walter read an article in American Boy magazine about the adventures of reporters working around the world. It inspired his interest in journalism and he decided when he was in junior high school that he wanted to be a reporter. His preparation for that career began with his work on his high school yearbook and newspaper. He was also active in student government and athletics, particularly track.

In 1933 Cronkite entered the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied political science, economics, and journalism. He took a part-time job with the Houston Post newspaper. This set him on a professional career which led him to leave college after two years to serve in several different journalism jobs, including general reporter for the Post, radio announcer in Kansas City, Missouri, and sportscaster in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. After Cronkite’s time at the Post, his principal employer for several years was United Press International (UPI). He covered World War II in Europe. He also served as chief correspondent at the Nuremburg war crimes trials (1945–46), and as head of the Moscow (Russia) office from 1946 to 1948.

Early Years and Education

“I was always a researcher.” –Walter Cronkite

Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. was born on November 4, 1916, in St. Joseph, Missouri. He was the only child of Walter Cronkite Sr., a dentist, and Helen Fritsche Cronkite. He spent much of his early life in Kansas City. Though he would go on to travel the world, Cronkite remained proud of his Missouri roots and always considered Kansas City his home. Naturally curious and observant, he kept a notebook throughout his youth to record daily observations and often researched in encyclopedias to learn more about subjects that interested him. Since his parents struggled financially, Walter worked many odd jobs to make extra money.

In 1927 Walter’s family moved to Houston, Texas. Though shocked by Southern racism, Walter thrived in his new environment. He worked on the staff of the school newspaper at Sidney Lanier Middle School, played piano, competed in various sports, joined the Boy Scouts, kept a paper route for the Houston Post, rode with cowboys at a local ranch, and even built his own neighborhood telegraph network. In 1928 he got his first real taste of politics when he attended both the Democratic National Convention in Houston and the Republican National Convention in Kansas City.

After the Great Depression started in 1929, Walter’s father became an alcoholic. Money became so tight that the family was forced to eat dog food at one point. After his parents divorced in 1932, Walter stayed with his mother in Houston and attended San Jacinto High School. He was inspired to become a journalist by a professional newspaperman who volunteered at the school. Walter edited the school newspaper and won a state journalism contest. He then took a summer job with the Houston Post as a copy boy, delivery boy, and occasional cub reporter who wrote small summaries of social functions. Walter graduated in 1933 and enrolled at the University of Texas in Austin.

Cause Of Walter Cronkite’s Death

Cronkite died on July 17, 2009, at the age of 92. The reported cause of his death was cerebrovascular disease- a health condition that affects blood supply to the brain. He died four years after the demise of his beloved wife, Mary Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Maxwell Cronkite who died of cancer on March 15, 2005. The couple married on March 30, 1940, and they had three kids including the American actress and mental health professional, Kathy Cronkite, Nancy Cronkite and Walter Leland (Chip) Cronkite III who is married to popular actress Deborah Rush.

Walter Cronkite died at his home in New York City and was buried next to his wife at their family cemetery plot in Kansas City, Missouri.

Key stories

Cronkite was known for his coverage of the U.S. space program, from Project Mercury to the Moon landings to the Space Shuttle. He was the only non-NASA recipient of a Moon-rock award. Cronkite was well known for his departing catchphrase “And that’s the way it is,” followed by the date on which the appearance aired.

Cronkite made history when he became the first television reporter to announce the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In the newsroom at CBS, the cameras were not ready when the news came in over the wire service. Cronkite’s voice was broadcast over a blank CBS placard on the screen: “Bulletin . . . In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade. The first reports say the President was seriously wounded, that he slumped over in Mrs. Kennedy’s lap, she cried out, ‘Oh, no!’ and the motorcade went on . . . The wounds perhaps could be fatal . . .” For three and a half days there was no entertainment, no commercials, just the news.

Cronkite’s reporting of Vietnam was controversial. He reported the events on the evening news. But at the Tet Offensive he traveled there to see the results. What he saw upset him. On February 27, 1968, Cronkite reported the war in Vietnam could not be won. This was a major change from his usual objective reporting. He was voicing his own opinion on national television. It was the view of David Halberstam and others that Cronkite’s broadcast turned many Americans against the war. Also that it played a part in Lyndon B. Johnson’s decision not to run for another term as President. The other viewpoint is that Americans had already turned against the war before Cronkite’s broadcast. After watching Cronkite’s broadcast, Lyndon Johnson said to his press secretary, George Christian, “If I have lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Whatever effect Cronkite’s broadcast had, by 1967 Johnson’s approval rating on the war was down to 32%.

Walter Cronkite Net Worth

Prior to his retirement on March 6, 1981, Cronkite had received numerous awards, including the Carr Van Anda Award for sustained contributions to journalism, which he received in 1968 from the faculty of the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism at the University of Ohio, the Paul White Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981. Cronkite has received the prestigious Peabody Award twice, but the News World International Lifetime Achievement Award 2003 and the Truman Foundation’s Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award 2004 were the last awards he received before his death on July 17, 2009. At the time of his death, the American broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite had a net worth of $20 million. One of his biggest contracts was in 1981 when he signed a 7-year contract with CBS, which offered him $1 million per year. When he was hired as a consultant for the station, he received $150,000 a year. His net worth has steadily declined since his death.

Key stories

Cronkite was known for his coverage of the U.S. space program, from Project Mercury to the Moon landings to the Space Shuttle. He was the only non-NASA recipient of a Moon-rock award. Cronkite was well known for his departing catchphrase “And that’s the way it is,” followed by the date on which the appearance aired. [1]

Cronkite made history when he became the first television reporter to announce the assassination of John F. Kennedy. [2] In the newsroom at CBS, the cameras were not ready when the news came in over the wire service. [3] Cronkite’s voice was broadcast over a blank CBS placard on the screen: “Bulletin . . . In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade. The first reports say the President was seriously wounded, that he slumped over in Mrs. Kennedy’s lap, she cried out, ‘Oh, no!’ and the motorcade went on . . . The wounds perhaps could be fatal . . .” [4] For three and a half days there was no entertainment, no commercials, just the news. [4]

Cronkite’s reporting of Vietnam was controversial. He reported the events on the evening news. But at the Tet Offensive he traveled there to see the results. [5] What he saw upset him. On February 27, 1968, Cronkite reported the war in Vietnam could not be won. [6] This was a major change from his usual objective reporting. He was voicing his own opinion on national television. [7] It was the view of David Halberstam and others that Cronkite’s broadcast turned many Americans against the war. [5] Also that it played a part in Lyndon B. Johnson’s decision not to run for another term as President. [5] The other viewpoint is that Americans had already turned against the war before Cronkite’s broadcast. [8] After watching Cronkite’s broadcast, Lyndon Johnson said to his press secretary, George Christian, “If I have lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” [5] Whatever effect Cronkite’s broadcast had, by 1967 Johnson’s approval rating on the war was down to 32%.

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