Walter Cronkite, Legendary Newsman Dies at Age 92

Cronkite's journalism career spanned more than four decades.

ByABC News
June 12, 2009, 11:34 AM

July 17, 2009— -- Walter Leland Cronkite, a legendary reporter and anchorman who was once voted the "most trusted man in America," died today at age 92.

The man who anchored the "CBS Evening News" from 1962 to 1981 died of cerebral vascular disease at 7:42 p.m. ET in his New York City home surrounded by his family, Cronkite's longtime chief of staff, Marlene Adler, told The Associated Press.

"Walter was always more than just an anchor," President Obama said this evening in a prepared statement. "He was someone we could trust to guide us through the most important issues of the day; a voice of certainty in an uncertain world. He was family. He invited us to believe in him, and he never let us down."

Cronkite became best known on CBS News during the 1960s when he established the prominent role of the television news anchorman for the network's newly expanded evening news program.

"Walter Cronkite set an example for all broadcast journalism by simply doing his best to tell us the truth about things that matter, with courage and without partisanship," ABC News president David Westin said. "We will miss him, but will seek to keep his spirit alive by following his example."

Cronkite was held in such esteem in broadcast journalism that his name became synonymous with "news anchor" around the world. ABC News' anchors mourned the their fellow journalist.

"Walter Cronkite was and always will be the gold standard," said Charles Gibson, anchor of "World News." "His objectivity, his even-handedness, his news judgment are all great examples. He, as much as anyone, is responsible for developing network television news. He set the standard. He told it 'the way it is' and all of us who are privileged to work in this business owe him an enormous debt of gratitude."

"He was the defining anchor of America's story -- reminding us of what we can be at our best," added Diane Sawyer, anchor of "Good Morning America." "He had depth, foreign reporting experience, endless excitement about the news, and an irresistible irreverence. A call, a note, a compliment from Walter was pretty much the Nobel Prize for a young reporter. I am so lucky to know what it was to be part of the Cronkite team."

"There never was and there never will be another Walter Cronkite," said ABC News anchor Barbara Walters. "We trusted him and that trust was well founded. He was also a jolly and supportive friend. He will be missed by each of us individually who knew him and by the whole country who loved him."

Cronkite's clout at his peak was illustrated by President Lyndon Johnson's dismay when Cronkite returned from a trip to Vietnam in 1968 and reported that the U.S. was losing the war.

"If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America," a rattled LBJ was reported to have said.

The anchorman with his trademark avuncular delivery also spoke for America when he delivered the grim news that President Kennedy had died of his wounds. Nearly overcome with emotion, Cronkite paused and took off his glasses while he composed himself.

Cronkite's legacy of being the authoritative voice of news is still heard each night when CBS News uses a recording of Cronkite to introduce CBS Evening News With Katie Couric.

Born Nov. 4, 1916, in St. Joseph, Mo., Cronkite was the son of a dentist who moved the family to Houston.

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.