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.
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
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.
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.