Friday, March 6, 2015



New York City (JFK+50) Thirty-four years ago tonight, March 6, 1981, Walter Cronkite*, the most trusted reporter in America, made his final broadcast as news anchor of CBS Evening News

Walter concluded that broadcast with these simple words...

"I'll be away on assignment and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years.  Good night."

On most of his previous broadcasts, Cronkite had closed out with the famous line...."And that's the way it is"  followed by the day's date.

Mr. Cronkite, who replaced Douglas Edwards as anchor of CBS Evening News on April 16, 1962, is best remembered for breaking in to the program 'As the World Turns,' on the afternoon of Friday, November 22, 1963 saying...

"Three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas, Texas.  The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting."

In those days, it took a while for the studio television cameras to warm up so only Walter's voice was heard as the audience looked at a still image reading "BULLETIN."  In television media terminology, this is called a "voice over."

Long after the cameras had warmed up, shocked viewers saw an emotional news anchor fighting back tears and reading from a teletype message which had just come in over the wires...

"From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes  ago."

After four dark days of coverage of the assassination, aftermath and funeral, Walter Cronkite spoke these words...

"Tonight there will be few Americans who will go to bed without carrying with them the sense that somehow they have failed.

If in the search of our conscience we find a new dedication to the American concepts that brook no political, sectional, religious or racial divisions, then maybe it may yet be possible to say that John F. Kennedy did not die in vain.

That's the way it is, Monday, November 25, 1963.  
This is Walter Cronkite. Good night."

During the post-Kennedy years, Mr. Cronkite reported daily on the events in Southeast Asia.  In 1968, he presented an editorial condemning America's role in the war in Vietnam.  LBJ reportedly said after the broadcast, "If I have lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."

*Walter Cronkite (1916-2009) was born in St. Joseph, Missouri and grew up in Kansas City and Houston.  He attended the University of Texas at Austin but dropped out in his junior year to take jobs in newspaper reporting and sports broadcasting.

During WWII, WC worked for United Press International covering battles in North Africa and Europe.  After the war, he covered the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.

In 1981, President Jimmy Carter awarded WC the Presidential Medal of Freedom. WC died in New York City at the age of 92.

Walter Cronkite
National Aeronautics & Space Museum
Washington, D.C. (2004)
NASA Photo by Bill Ingalls