Walter Cronkite (1916-2009)
by Larry Bounds

Walter Cronkite's journey to become America's most watched and most trusted journalist began as a newspaper boy in Missouri, a newspaper copy boy in Texas, a radio announcer in the Great Depression, and a United Press correspondent in the middle of many of the major battles of World War II.

CBS News hired Walter Cronkite in 1950 while he was working as a radio correspondent in Washington, D. C., and over the next decade his radio and TV reporting earned him his place as successor to the legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow.

Having covered every Democratic and Republican national convention since they were first aired on television, Cronkite became the primary reporter covering the first great news event of the 60s, the Kennedy  ̶ Nixon campaigns for President.

Shortly after taking the reins as anchor of the CBS Evening News in 1962, he extended the program from its traditional 15 minutes to 30 minutes  ̶ a first for any network evening news program. The show was renamed the “CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.” At the end of that first broadcast he closed with the catch phrase, “and that’s the way it is” followed by the date. He would continue to do so for nineteen years.

As the face and voice of CBS News for such a long time, many of us remember Cronkite as a regular television guest in our homes. We may picture him in his shirt sleeves delivering the shocking news of Kennedy's assassination in 1963 as he broadcast live all day to a stunned nation.

Or we may see him in his protective helmet and vest reporting with our troops from the ground in Vietnam in 1965 and again during the Tet Offensive in 1968. Many will remember his editorial predicting a stalemate for U.S. forces unless an honorable peace could be negotiated with North Vietnam  ̶ five years before the bloody conflict would end.

Perhaps we hear the sound of Cronkite’s, “Oh boy! Whew!” at a complete loss for words and overcome as the rest of the world was by mankind's landing on the moon in 1969. Cronkite had been there explaining astrophysics to the American public since the space program's earliest test flights. NASA's astronauts held the greatest admiration for Cronkite as it was evident to them that he worked very hard to explain their missions accurately.

Cronkite would later claim that the two most important events of the 20th century were the Space Race and the Civil Rights Movement. And we may well remember his reporting of the marches across the South, the assassinations of Dr. King and Malcolm X, the Watts riots, and President Johnson's signing of the Civil Rights Act.

In the 60s, Cronkite was a part of it all, from the Beatles to the Six-Day War, and because he was  ̶ we were too.


Recommended Reading

Brinkley, Douglas. Cronkite. Harper Collins, New York. 2012.

Cloud, Stanley and Lynne Olson. The Murrow Boys / Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 1996.

Cronkite, Walter. A Reporter's Life / Walter Cronkite. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1996.

Cronkite, Walter and Don Carleton. Conversations with Cronkite. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX. 2010.

Gates, Gary Paul. Air Time / The Inside Story of CBS News. Harper & Row, New York. 1978.


Larry Bounds

With over thirty years as a professional educator and even more as a professional magician, Larry Bounds brings his skills together from the classroom and the stage to recreate historical characters for the Chautauqua audience.  His earned a B.A. in Theatre and a Masters in Education from The University of Tennessee and has performed in Chautauqua programs presenting Einstein, Churchill, Houdini, Disney, and others since 2002. He currently lives in Greer, South Carolina, with his wife Carole and their two Yorkiepoos Beau and Dini.


Bullet Points

  • As anchor of the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite was intimately involved in all the major events of the Sixties.  He reported on Kennedy's election and assassination, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the U.S. space program.
  • He was watched by over 22 million viewers, the highest rated news broadcast in America, and he was voted the most trusted man in America.
  • Cronkite's integrity was so great that after his editorial, which claimed that the Vietnam War was headed to a stalemate, President Johnson is said to have complained, "If we've lost Cronkite, we've lost middle America."



“In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.”

“I can’t imagine a person becoming a success who doesn’t give this game of life everything he’s got.”

“Putting it as strongly as I can, the failure to give free airtime for our political campaigns endangers our democracy.”

"We are not educated well enough to perform the necessary act of intelligently selecting our leaders."

"Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine."

“The battle for the airwaves cannot be limited to only those who have the bank accounts to pay for the battle and win it.”

“America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.”



1916 - Born Nov. 4, in St. Joseph, Missouri

1925 - Newsboy for The Kansas City Star.

1927 - Family moves to Houston, Texas, Walter becomes copy boy for Houston Post

1935 - Newspaper reporter for the Houston Press.

1936 - Becomes broadcast journalist for KCMO radio

1940 - Marries Betsy Maxwell

1942-45 - Reports the North Africa landings of WW II and covers the Battle of the Bulge with Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army

1950 - Hired by CBS

1953-57 - Hosts “You Are There” a program that re-enacts history in a news format

1962-81 - Anchors the CBS Evening News

1981 - Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

1993 - Forms his own documentary production company

2005 - Wife, Betsy, passes away

2009 - Dies on July 17, age 92