The Voice of Reason from my childhood, legendary CBS news anchorman Walter Cronkite, died just about two hours ago at age 92. In those days we had just three national TV networks in America, and while we watched the news on NBC with The Huntley-Brinkley Report and later the NBC Nightly News with John Chancellor, we still watched Uncle Walter, especially at major news events -- and most especially switching between NBC and CBS during the US space program. It is perhaps telling that I remember Frank Reynolds was the anchor on ABC at the time of Apollo 13, but I cannot remember the name of anyone anchoring the ABC news during the rest of Walter's tenure at CBS.
Watching some remembrances on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, everyone was talking about Walter crying twice on air -- announcing the death of President Kennedy and Neil Armstrong's first steps on the Moon. But what I remember was Walter Cronkite breaking into programming one night to announce in tears the loss of Grissom, White and Chaffee in the Apollo 1 fire on the pad during a test at Cape Kennedy. The moon program and JFK, brought together in one sentence. You might consider that my generation's Hindenburg. How ironic that Walter Cronkite died just shy of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing itself. Perhaps it best that his resonant voice will be played out this week and he will be remembered along with the first men on the moon -- and not drowned out by the recent weeks' tumult over Michael Jackson.
There are those who say that reporters of the news shouldn't be the news itself. A sentiment which is sorely breached by those who merge news and commentary and, may I suggest, creating news and things meant to look like news. Yet Walter is also best known for one simple commentary, where after traveling to Vietnam in 1968, he announced on the air that the war was unwinnable. As a result, President Lyndon Johnson decided not to run for re-election, citing that if he'd lost Cronkite, he'd lost middle America.
He left CBS before he was ready, that is probably true. Yet he managed to continue to do things like host the Kennedy Center Honors and the Vienna New Year's Concert. And he sailed his boats for a long time.
The Most Trusted Man in America is now gone. Would that we see the likes of his kind grace our lives again... but I fear not.
Good night, Walter.