Cronkite was an icon of the self-consciously dignified style of journalism that dominated throughout his years in the anchor chair. It is, in a way, appropriate that his departure comes as the school of news delivery he represented — responsible, sonorous, self-important — is on its way out.
Cronkite has been rumored to be near death for a month now, after he fell "gravely ill." In late June, his family said he had cerebrovascular disease and was not expected to recover. CBS broke the news of Cronkite's death with a special report tonight.
Cronkite anchored the CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981, ending each broadcast with his signature sign-off, "And that's the way it is." Following his consistently strong showing in viewer opinion polls, Cronkite became known as "the most trusted man in America."
Cronkite was perhaps best remembered for his reporting on the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy, which "helped pull together a nation stricken with grief and was a signal event in television's evolution into the national nervous system," in the words of Times columnist Tom Wicker.
Cronkite also helped turn the tide of public opinion against the Vietnam War when, at the close of a February 1968 broadcast focused on North Vietnam's Tet offensive, he concluded that America probably could not win the war:
It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate.
Cronkite was eventually pushed out of the anchor chair in 1981 by Dan Rather, leading to a long-simmering grudge; when Rather himself was pushed out as CBS Evening News anchor in 2005, Cronkite said he should have been replaced years earlier. Rather "was perennially in third place," Cronkite said at the time.
Cronkite grew up in Missouri and Texas. He dropped out of college to pursue a career in journalism; he was discovered by Edward R. Murrow while working in radio and brought by Murrow to CBS.
Cronkite leaves behind a journalism school in his name at Arizona State University, with which he became closely involved. He is survived by two daughters, a son and four grandsons.
We encourage you to post remembrances, video or otherwise, in the comments below.
- CBS News has a video obituary and several photo essays
- Full New York Times obituary
- TVNewser collected statements from CBS journalists about Cronkite's death