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Texas History 101

Walter Cronkite left the University of Texas to pursue a career in journalism. Over the years, he covered some of the biggest events in history and became the most trusted man in America.

By November 2003Comments

Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, on November 4, 1916. He was raised in Houston, where he spent his childhood selling newspapers. Cronkite attended San Jacinto High School before moving to Austin in 1933 to go to the University of Texas, where he promptly joined the Chi Phi fraternity and ran for freshman class president, only to lose to San Jacinto High School alum and future Texas Supreme Court chief justice Joe R. Greenhill. Cronkite subsequently shifted gears and focused on working for UT’s newspaper, the Daily Texan.

In 1935 Cronkite dropped out of UT to pursue a full-time job at the Houston Press, and the following year he helmed a one-man news-radio anchor position at Kansas City’s KCMO. Cronkite later worked as a correspondent for the United Press, a position he held for eleven years. During that time, Cronkite covered World War II and the Nuremberg Trials. He was the first to establish United Press bureaus throughout Europe and was named United Press’s bureau chief in Belgium.

In 1940 he married Betsy Maxwell; the couple would have three children together.

In 1946 Cronkite became the chief correspondent for the United Press in Moscow, and by 1950 he was working for CBS News at a Washington news station (he eventually went to work at the network). Early in his television career, Cronkite hosted a historical re-creation series titled You Are There. He also served as a narrator for several years on the CBS documentary series The Twentieth Century.

In 1962 Walter Cronkite took over Douglas Edward’s anchorman position on the CBS Evening News. At that point all the networks had fifteen-minute news broadcasts. Cronkite believed that fifteen minutes wasn’t enough time to report all the important news, so he convinced CBS to let him make the evening news thirty minutes. On September 2, 1963, Cronkite made history with network television’s first thirty-minute broadcast, which included an exclusive interview with President John F. Kennedy. Just over two months later, he was the first to report President Kennedy’s assassination.

Cronkite retired his anchor position on March 6, 1981.

Over the years, Cronkite has been the recipient of honorary degrees at Harvard, Northwestern University, Bucknell University, and Ohio State University. He has also received several Emmy awards as well as a 1962 and 1981 Peabody award. And he became regarded as “the most trusted man in America.”

Since his retirement, Cronkite has remained busy. He has hosted CBS’s Walter Cronkite’s Universe and the Arts and Entertainment Cable TV network’s Dinosaur. He has also published a series of books about sailing as well as an autobiography titled A Reporter’s Life.

In 2001 Cronkite began narrating various essays for NPR’s All Things Considered.

Cronkite has also lent his voice to the University of Texas for its campus virtual tour and for various television spots. He is also the author of a weekly syndicated newspaper column, “And That’s the Way I See It,” named after his most memorable saying, “And that’s the way it is.”

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