“And that’s the way it is”

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He was called “Uncle Walter” and ” The most trusted man in America”. He  was credited or blamed (depending on your political persuasion) for ending the Vietnam war when he declared the war “unwinnable”. To Many at the time he was the wise kindly father figure who shepherded the United States through the turbulence of the 1960’s and 70’s with his gravitas and his catchphrase “And that’s the way it is”. In present times, he seems more of an anachronism given the modern age of the twenty-four hour news-cycle, infotainment, celebrity presidents, and the blurred line between opinion and fact that has plagued both sides of the political spectrum. Today we visit the   Walter Cronkite memorial ,and honor the man, his legacy, and the fleeting art of journalistic integrity. 

Located in Saint Joseph, Missouri and the campus of Missouri Western College, the Walter Cronkite memorial honors their native son and the impact he had on the field of television journalism.  Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. was born on November 4, 1916 in Saint Joseph, Missouri. He spent the first ten years of his life in Kansas City before his family moved to Houston. Cronkite pursued a journalism degree at the University of Texas before dropping out his junior year to enter broadcasting. He worked at radio station KCMO in Kansas City and a few other places before landing a job at CBS radio under the guidance of the legendary Edward R Murrow.  As a war correspondent, Cronkite learned to help by a bomber and actually worked the machine gun a few times there were injuries. He covered the Battle of the Bulge as well as The Nuremberg war trails after WW2 ended.

Cronkite (second from left at the Nuremberg War crimes tribunal.

Earning a reputation for courage under fire Cronkite also covered the Korean War and covered both the Republican and Democratic Conventions in 1952, the first time they were ever televised. In 1962 Cronkite began his 19 year stint at the helm of the “CBS Evening News”.  He was the first person ever to hold a nightly televised news broadcast. From 1962 to 1980 Cronkite was there for every major news event. He was the first reporter to broadcast the Kennedy assassination. (He happened to be standing next to the teletype machine talking to someone when the story appeared on the news-wire). He is remembered for the moment his voice broke when he announced JFK’s death. It was one of the few moments he ever broke on camera.  His News program was the top rated program in the country for almost two decades.

Despite their numerous television successes, ” The CBS News with Walter Cronkite” always maintained the highest rating share.
Cronkite was a friend and an admirer of President Kennedy. His death came as a shock to him but he had to maintain composure because he knew millions were depending on him to report the story.

During the late Sixties, Cronkite visited Vietnam and reported live during the Tet Offensive. After speaking with several generals who confided in him that they saw no way of winning the war, and with their permission to do so, Cronkite reported that the war appeared unwinnable. Cronkite’s assessment lead President Johnson to comment ” If I lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America”  Cronkite also was the first source of information for many during the RFK and MLK assassinations of 1968. An ardent and vocal champion of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) he would be the only non-employee ever to be honored with the “Ambassador of exploration” award.

A few of Cronkite’s many Emmy Awards
Some of the many citations and awards Walter Cronkite received from NASA.
A 25 foot sculpture of the Apollo Lift off in the main gallery of the Cronkite memorial.

Lots of Pictures from his years of broadcasting including autographed Pictures of every president from Kennedy to Obama.  And clips from some of the highlights of his many years of broadcasting.

An autographed photo of Walter Cronkite and President Ronald Reagan
The memorial has a replica of the CBS Newsroom from the 60’s and 70’s . You can even simulate a broadcast and have it taped if you wish. They were doing an orientation for next years freshman at the college at the time and they were touring the studio, so I passed. But it looked like fun. 
Walter Cronkite’s desk at CBS including some of his papers, books and his three favorite pipes. 
A 1970’s era camera that was used during the nightly broadcasts. 

Walter Cronkite ended his stint on “The CBS Evening News” in 1980. He would produce several very popular news specials for an additional 20 years. He retired completely in 2000. And spent the remaining nine years of his life pursuing some of his favorite non work related hobbies including sailing, drumming and spending time with his children and grandchildren. He will be remembered for his calm demeanor during two of the most difficult decades of US history, his unbiased and non-partisan approach to reporting, and for being a first rate journalist. The Walter Cronkite memorial is on the campus of the Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph, Missouri. Admission is free. 

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