The obituary of Walter Cronkite incorrectly described WTOP-TV, which eventually became WUSA, as being a CBS affiliate when Cronkite worked with the station in the 1950s. It was operated by CBS and jointly owned by The Washington Post Co. and CBS. The obituary also incorrectly said that NBC's nightly news program, hosted by Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, was two weeks behind "The CBS Evening News" in expanding to a half-hour broadcast in 1963. NBC expanded its program one week after CBS did.
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America's Iconic TV News Anchor Shaped the Medium and the Nation
As early as 1952, Cronkite had predicted that television would someday dominate American politics, and he was sensitive about the enormous potential of his broadcasts to mold and influence public opinion.
Retirement and Honors
In 1980, a year before Cronkite turned 65, CBS executives began to prod him to step aside to make way for the younger Dan Rather to lead the Evening News. At Cronkite's last convention, the 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York, the intensity of a farewell demonstration for Cronkite surpassed that of the reaction to Jimmy Carter's speech accepting nomination for a second term. Delegates gathered on the floor of Madison Square Garden chanting, "Wal-ter, Wal-ter, Wal-ter." It was a major national news event itself when Cronkite anchored his last "CBS Evening News" broadcast March 6, 1981.
But Cronkite later came to regret having been pushed out of the anchor's chair before he was ready to leave.
Six weeks before stepping down, Cronkite received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. As a special correspondent, he covered the 40th anniversary of V-E Day, the 40th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, the funeral of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and the 25th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian uprising.
As the years passed, he lost some of his reporter's reluctance to express an opinion and gave voice to his conventionally liberal ideals. In 2006, he told a gathering of reporters that his proudest moment as a journalist was the night he delivered his editorial about the futility of the Vietnam War. Had he still been a network anchor, he said, he would have tried to deliver a similar editorial about the Iraq war.
Cronkite married Mary Elizabeth "Betsy" Maxwell, a columnist and women's editor for the Kansas City Journal, on March 30, 1940. She died three weeks before their 65th anniversary.
They had three children, Nancy, Kathy and Walter L. "Chip" Cronkite III. As a widower, Cronkite was the companion of opera singer Joanna Simon, the older sister of pop singer-songwriter Carly Simon.
He was deeply disappointed that outer space remained beyond his reach.
"He keeps looking into the sky at night and saying, 'I have to go there,' " his wife once recalled.