“And Walter Cronkite Was There”

Shortly after 9PM tonight, a cable news program alerted me to the news that Walter Cronkite, once hailed as “The Most Trusted Man in America” had passed away at the age of 92.

It struck me as regrettable that Cronkite had missed the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing occurring later this week. Walter Cronkite had covered the Space Exploration program for CBS News from the very beginning. I was also saddened to learn his cause of death had been cited as complications from dementia. Losing a father to those same complications, I felt a great empathy for Cronkite’s family.

Over the next few days, a casual reader of the news sources available, will see broadcasted tributes to the legendary newsman on every newscast and commentary show and will read countless printed tributes to the man. I’m sure I could do no better than these esteemed colleagues and peers of the man.

I read that Cronkite had began anchoring the CBS Evening News in 1962. Many of the journalists who will be offering their tributes will no doubt say they, and much of America, grew up with Walter Cronkite and the evening news. Since I was born in 1962, and remember Mr. Cronkite on our family TV every evening when I was a kid; I, too, feel like I grew up with Mr. Cronkite.

While I do not remember Cronkite’s emotional announcement in 1963 of the assassination and death of John F. Kennedy, I still have faint memories of the CBS News coming on in my living room each evening on Channel 4 and hearing the teletype machines in the background and Walter shuffling papers on camera as each reporters’ name and evening’s location was typed on the screen. I also recall an announcement of the number of soldiers in Vietnam dead and wounded during the day.

Of course, Walter’s tagline of “That’s the way it is” ended each newscast. I can’t say I remember actually hearing him say it, but I do remember every comedian and impersonator of the time, using it on comedy and variety shows. It was part of the national vocabulary.

For me, as a kid growing up with Walter Cronkite, he had another more memorable tagline. Besides being a solid newscaster and journalist, Walter was also an educator. His fame for me lay in the Saturday morning children’s programming of CBS.

After cartoons had finished for the day, Walter came on TV for kids. Reviving a 1950’s radio program, Walter Cronkite and a team of reporters covered events in US history as reenacted by television and movie actors. No reporters were at the Alamo when Texians fell to Santa Anna’s army in 1836; nor were there TV cameras on Howland Island in 1937 awaiting a missing Amelia Earhart. But CBS brought those events alive through Walter Cronkite and reporters covering the “stories” as if “You Are There”

The following video contains the opening and the closing for that television show….

…. ending with Walter Cronkite’s other famous tagline:

“What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times…and you were there.”

Walter Cronkite was there for all of us. Good night, Mr. Cronkite.

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