Walter Cronkite was a well-known broadcast journalist in America, best remembered for anchoring the ‘CBS Evening News’ from the 1960s to the early 1980s. He dropped out of college to pursue a full-time job in newspaper reporting before breaking into the broadcasting industry as an announcer for Oklahoma’s ‘WKY’ radio station. Known by his broadcast name “Walter Wilcox,” he established himself as one of America’s best combat reporters during WWII. He started ‘CBS News’ as the anchor of the Sunday evening news program ‘Up To The Minute,’ and covered most of the major political events in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. His co-host and former astronaut Wally Schirra’s coverage of the ‘Apollo’ lunar missions made ‘CBS’ one of the most-watched networks, and he became the first non-astronaut to receive NASA’s ‘Ambassador of Exploration Award.’ He continued to appear as a speaker on ‘CBS,’ ‘CNN,’ and ‘NPR’ even after he retired. He covered major events and added to some of the most insightful historical documentaries on global events. He was married to Mary Elizabeth Maxwell, who perished before him when he was 92.
Youth and Adolescence
Walter Leland Cronkite was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, to Helen Lena and Dr. Walter Leland Cronkite on November 4, 1916. He was raised in Kansas City, Missouri, until the age of ten, when he relocated to Houston, Texas, with his family.
He began his schooling at ‘Woodrow Wilson Elementary School,’ then transferred to ‘Lanier Junior High School.’ He then graduated from ‘San Jacinto High School’ and enrolled at the ‘The University of Texas at Austin.’ He was a member of the ‘Boy Scouts’ and the director of the high school newspaper during his high school years.
He worked for the ‘Daily Texan’ in college and was a member of the Nu branch of the ‘Chi Phi Fraternity.’ In his pursuit of journalism, he also joined the Houston branch of ‘DeMolay.’ Walter dropped out of college before finishing his degree in 1935 to pursue a full-time job in newspaper reporting. Within a year, he had broken into the broadcasting business as an announcer for Oklahoma’s ‘WKY’ radio station.
Cronkite quickly became known as “Walter Wilcox,” his broadcast moniker. He joined the ‘United Press’ in 1937 and quickly established himself as one of the best American combat reporters during WWII, covering battles in North Africa and Europe.
‘CBS News’ approached him with an offer to join the ‘Murrow Boys squad that covered the war and take over the Moscow bureau. He turned down the offer and chose to stay with the ‘United Press.’During ‘Operation Torch’ in North Africa, he was one of the first combat correspondents to report on the Anglo-American campaign against the French. He flew over Germany in a ‘United States Army Air Forces bomber and even used the aircraft’s machine gun in battle.
From 1946 to 1948, he was the primary reporter for the ‘United Press’ in Moscow, covering the ‘Nuremberg trials.
Cronkite joined ‘CBS News’ in 1950 to become the anchor of the Sunday evening news program ‘Up To The Minute,’ and he covered the presidential elections of 1952 and 1956 with his program named ‘Pick the Winner.’ He presented CBS historical documentaries and serials such as ‘You Are There,’ ‘The Twentieth Century,’ and ‘It’s News to Me,’ which were popular in the 1960s.
Cronkite was the primary broadcaster for CBS’s coverage of the 1960 Winter Olympics, which was the first time such an event was aired live in the United States. When he took over the ‘CBS Evening News program from Douglas Edwards in April 1962, he became an evening news icon.
The show was extended to 30 minutes in September 1963, becoming the first nightly half-hour news program in American broadcasting history. He established a reputation for accurate and timely reporting and was lauded for his coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s murder in November 1963. This contributed significantly to ‘CBS’ outperforming its competitor, ‘NBC.’
He traveled to Vietnam in 1968 to report on the fallout of the ‘Tet Offensive.’ When he returned from the trip, he wrote articles that depicted the truth about the conflict and the hopeless condition of Americans dealing with guerrilla warfare.
His coverage of the Apollo moon missions, along with co-host and retired astronaut Wally Schirra, propelled ‘CBS’ to the top of the ratings in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This was followed by his coverage of the ‘Watergate’ scandal, which led to President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation in August 1974, and the Iran hostage crisis, which captured the world’s focus in January 1980.
Walter Cronkite resigned from broadcast journalism in March 1981, with his final ‘CBS Evening News bulletin, which was replaced by Dan Rather. He continued to appear as a speaker on ‘CBS,’ ‘CNN,’ and ‘NPR’ even after he retired. His interview with Margaret Thatcher following her victory in 1983 was extensively viewed.
His 1998 documentary, ‘Silicon Valley: A Century Renaissance,’ produced by the ‘Santa Clara Valley Historical Association,’ received critical praise. His participation in the ‘Connecticut Forum’ panel debate on ‘Integrity in the Media’ in Hartford, Connecticut, in May 1999, was also appreciated.
Walter’s Important Projects
As a reporter for the ‘United Press’ and ‘CBS,’ he made significant accomplishments. In 1996, he released ‘A Reporter’s Life,’ a book that recounted his experiences as a reporter during World War II and the years that followed.
Honors and Recognition
In 1968, he was awarded the ‘Carr Van Anda Award’ for his long-term contributions to the news. In 1970, he received the ‘Freedom of the Press George Polk Prize’ and the ‘Paul White Award’. In 1972, he earned the ‘James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service,’ and in 1981, he received the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ from Jimmy Carter.
He also won the ‘Radio Television Digital News Association lifetime achievement honor in 1985 and the ‘Ischia International Journalism Award’ in 1999. He was named a ‘Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003 and the first non-astronaut to earn NASA’s ‘Ambassador of Exploration Award’ in 2006.
Walter’s Private Affairs
He met Mary Elizabeth “Betsy” Maxwell in 1936 while working as a sports commentator for Kansas City, Missouri’s ‘KCMO (AM)’ radio station, and they married in March 1940. Nancy, Mary Kathleen, and Walter Leland Cronkite III were their three offspring.
He enjoyed sailing and had a custom-built boat that he used to sail in the US’s coastal waterways. In March 2005, his wife perished from cancer. After that, he engaged singer Joanna Simon until his death. He died in July 2009, at the age of 92, of cerebrovascular disease at his residence in New York City.
Estimated Net Worth
Walter Cronkite was an American broadcast journalist who had a net worth of $20 million at the time of his death in 2009. Walter Cronkite was born in Saint Joseph, Missouri in November 1916 and passed away in July 2009. He was best known for being an anchorman for CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981.
On his CBS program ‘The Morning Show,’ Walter Cronkite engaged with a lion puppet called ‘Charlemagne,’ believing that by using a puppet, he would be able to discuss issues that a human being would be hesitant to discuss otherwise. He has provided the voice for numerous advertisements and has appeared in a number of TV shows as a cameo.