Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite - Dead at 92

Walter Cronkite, dead at 92

Via The New York Times:

"Walter Cronkite, an iconic CBS News journalist who defined the role of anchorman for a generation of television viewers, died Friday at the age of 92, his family said.

“My father Walter Cronkite died,” his son Chip said just before 8 p.m. Eastern. CBS interrupted prime time programming to show an obituary for the man who defined the network’s news division for decades.

Mr. Cronkite’s family said last month that he was seriously ill with cerebrovascular disease.

Mr. Cronkite anchored the “CBS Evening News” from 1962 to 1981, at a time when television became the dominant medium of the United States. He figuratively held the hand of the American public during the civil rights movement, the space race, the Vietnam war, and the impeachment of Richard Nixon. During his tenure, network newscasts were expanded to 30 minutes from 15."

All of us of a "certain age" grew up with Walter Cronkite. I remember seeing him on a small black and white TV--then later, on a color television set in 1968. Even though I was very little, I remember feeling a sense of respect just watching him. At that time, all the news was very serious, unlike today where we hear every detail of celebrities and their goings-on. It was a different time; frivolity was not news back then.

I still get a guttural sense of dread when I see the "SPECIAL REPORT" interruption during Regularly Scheduled Programming. I distinctly remember the words, "Robert F. Kennedy as been assassinated", and "Martin Luther King, Jr. has been assassinated" from Walter Cronkite's announcement to a public who didn't want to hear those words. The cries, "Bobby's been shot!" and "Martin's dead!" were wailed in my house. I was seven years old and didn't quite understand, but knew it was something horrible. After the numerous televised reports and several day-long funeral reports for and about these two political icons, I've had a fear of flag-covered coffins; I just KNEW they were under my bed. (Wow...this is taking me BACK.)

What I'm trying to say is, there will never be a time like it was back when Mr. Cronkite came into our houses every night to report the very serious newscasts when he worked for CBS. We always usually had CBS news on during dinner when the most horrific Vietnam images were being shown to a nation at odds with the war. My beautiful grandmother, Babe (I called her "Mimi") always whispered "don't LOOK" if I turned around from the dining room table to see what was being shown. Instead, I just listened to Mr. Cronkite's somber voice informing the nation of an ugliness that was occurring half a world away.

On a more triumphant note, I clearly recall Walter Cronkite's proud reporting of Apollo 11. That was 40 years ago this week.

Buzz Aldrin's moon walk in 1969.

We always looked to you, Walter Cronkite...whether it was tragedy or triumph. I believe you led a long and very important life.

Rest in Peace, Sir.

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