Barack Obama hails Walter Cronkite as an 'icon'
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Saturday, July 18, 2009 4:48PM EDT
The accolades keep pouring in for CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite, who died Friday at age 92, with U.S. President Barack Obama praising the newsman as a national icon.
Cronkite died of cerebral vascular disease at his Manhattan home at 7:42 p.m., surrounded by his family.
In a video statement, Obama said Cronkite was like family to millions of Americans, who welcomed him into their living rooms and trusted him to "guide us through the most important issues of the day."
"That's why we loved Walter, because in an era before blogs and email, cellphones and cable, he was the news," Obama said. "Walter invited us to believe in him and he never let us down. This country has lost an icon and a dear friend and he will be truly missed."
Cronkite will be laid to rest in Missouri, next to his late wife. However, a funeral service has been set for Thursday at St. Bartholomew's Church in Manhattan.
Cronkite anchored the CBS evening newscast from 1962 to 1981. His coverage of some of America's most pivotal events -- from the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the Vietnam War to Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon -- made him the "most trusted man in America," according to a 1972 survey.
Stacey Woelfel, chairman of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, said Saturday that Cronkite's leadership will be most remembered by the public and fellow journalists alike.
"He had this fatherly, and later grandfatherly, approach to the news," Woelfel told CTV News Channel. "He obviously had a wonderful voice, the deep, booming voice, and he had a look -- he wasn't a blowdried, super-handsome man, he had the look of somebody who had been around, and of course he had. He'd been to World War II to get his broadcasting career started."
According to Woelfel, Cronkite is credited with developing the notion of the anchorman when he hosted CBS's coverage of the 1952 political conventions.
The half-hour evening newscast was also born during his tenure at CBS, in 1963.
Cronkite's colleague Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes praised Cronkite as a "superb reporter and honourable man."
"It's hard to imagine a man for whom I had more admiration," Wallace told CNN.
Host of CBS's Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer, said he grew up idolizing Cronkite.
"Walter was who I wanted to be when I grew up," Schieffer said.
"He set a standard for all of us. He made television news what it became."
CBS has announced that it will air a prime-time special, "That's the Way It Was: Remembering Walter Cronkite," at 7 p.m. on Sunday.
"He was a great broadcaster and a gentleman whose experience, honesty, professionalism and style defined the role of anchor and commentator," CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves said in a statement.
Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr., was born on Nov. 4, 1916 in St. Joseph, Mo., and moved to Houston, Tex., when he was 10.
He began his reporting career at the campus newspaper at the University of Texas and spent his summers at The Houston Post.
After spending time at the Houston Press and a brief stint at KCMO in Kansas City, Mo., Cronkite joined United Press in 1937.
He was sent to London in the early days of the Second World War, and he went on to cover the battle of the North Atlantic, a bombing mission over Germany and a parachute mission into Holland with the 101st Airborne Division.
He served as chief correspondent at the Nuremberg trials before heading the United Press bureau in Moscow. He joined CBS in 1950.
Cronkite married Mary Elizabeth "Betsy" Maxwell, whom he met at KCMO, in 1940. The couple had three children: Nancy, Mary Kathleen and Walter Leland III. Betsy died in 2005.
While Cronkite was known for his soothing, grandfatherly tone, he was a demanding journalist off camera, which led to his nickname, "Old Ironpants."
But viewers loved him, with as many as 18 million tuning in each night to his newscast. About 36 million people watched his final broadcast on March 6, 1981.