He got an early start in journalism. After graduating from Houston's San Jacinto High School, he enrolled at the University of Texas. The natural newsman, however, was soon spending more time filing stories for his college and local newspapers and area radio stations than attending classes.
After two years in college, Cronkite left school in 1935 to become a full-time reporter for the Houston Post. Within a year, the young Cronkite began working as a correspondent for United Press International (UPI).
Cronkite often said he was inspired by Texas newspaperman Gordon Kent Shearer, who served as bureau chief for UPI in Austin.
During World War II, Cronkite traveled to Europe to cover fighting from the front lines. As a war correspondent, Cronkite earned a reputation as a courageous and tireless reporter, parachuting into Holland with the 101st Airborne Division and talking to soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge.
After the war, Cronkite stayed with UPI, reporting from Europe, the Soviet Union and Washington, D.C. Starting in 1950, Cronkite began work in television journalism at CBS News. His first network jobs were for shows including "The Week in Review" and "You Are There," a show that presented imaginary interviews with historical figures such as Julius Caesar and Joan of Arc.
Cronkite became one of the original creators of "CBS Evening News" and anchored the show's first 30-minute broadcast, featuring an interview with President Kennedy. Cronkite's levelheaded and assuring delivery carried American viewers through the tumultuous events of the 1960s, including the assassinations of President Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr., and coverage of the Vietnam War.
Many credit Cronkite with helping turn U.S. sentiment against involvement in Vietnam after a special 1968 broadcast during which he candidly reported that America was fighting a losing effort.
Cronkite often talked about the emotion involved in covering news events, particularly his announcement of Kennedy's death, saying in 2001: "It was not until I had to say that the president was dead that it hit me the enormity of what I was reporting. ... I don't blame anybody for showing emotion on the air. I don't think I would trust a reporter, male or female, who didn't show any emotion."
Cronkite's passionate interest in the space program following the 1969 Apollo moon landing also bolstered NASA's public relations efforts to support its explorations.
Cronkite said the moon landing was the favorite of his career.
"The successful landing on the moon, very probably, is the best story," he said in an interview with CNN's Larry King in 2002. "I do think that the success, although still not complete ... in the recognition of equal rights ... to all Americans, regardless of color, creed and so forth, was also one of the best stories we've had to report."
Cronkite had his share of controversy. In 1976, another TV newsman reported that he saw Cronkite's name on the alleged White House list of journalists who had worked for the CIA. An angry Cronkite demanded then-CIA director George H.W. Bush disclose which journalists actually had been CIA agents, essentially learning that two former CBS correspondents worked for the CIA.
Cronkite also cited lack of accountability and corporate ownership as a problem in modern-day journalism.