Texas Originals

Walter Cronkite

November 4, 1916–July 17, 2009

Newscaster Walter Cronkite—once known as "the most trusted man in America"—launched his career in Texas. Born in Missouri in 1916, Cronkite moved to Houston at age ten and discovered journalism in high school. He was a student reporter at The University of Texas before pursuing journalism full-time. 

Cronkite earned national recognition during World War II, covering the fighting in Europe for the United Press. After the war, he moved to television, ultimately becoming the anchorman for the CBS Evening News in 1962.

For two decades, there was scarcely a story Cronkite didn’t cover: President Kennedy’s assassination, the moon landings, Watergate. Whenever earthshaking events occurred, most television viewers learned about them from Cronkite, and his reporting became closely associated with the average American’s point of view. In 1968, when he stated that the Vietnam War was probably unwinnable, President Johnson reportedly said that if he’d lost Walter Cronkite, he’d lost middle America. 

Cronkite retired from the CBS Evening News in 1981 but remained a vocal advocate of journalism’s role in preserving democracy. He wrote in his autobiography, "The First Amendment, with its guarantees of free speech and a free press, has been at the heart of the American success story."

Before his death in 2009, Cronkite gave the collected papers from his remarkable fifty-year career to the Briscoe Center for American History at UT Austin.

For More about Walter Cronkite

The Walter Cronkite papers, part of the News Media History Collection at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, cover Cronkite’s early life in Houston, his student days at UT, and his work as a correspondent for the United Press International covering World War II and the Nuremberg war crimes trial. The majority of the papers, however, deal with his career as anchor and managing editor of the  CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite from 1950 through his retirement in 1981.

In 1998 and 1999, Don Carleton, executive director of UT Austin’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, interviewed Cronkite for the Archive of American Television. The full interview, covering the early days of CBS television news, Vietnam, the Kennedy Assassination, and the moon landing, among other topics, is available on the Television Academy Foundation’s website.

The journalism program at Arizona State University is named in honor of Cronkite. Each year, ASU presents the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism to a leading figure in journalism.

The Walter Cronkite Memorial was dedicated in 2013 at Missouri Western State University in Cronkite’s birthplace of Saint Joseph, Missouri. The interactive exhibition showcases photographs, television displays, and memorabilia from Cronkite’s life and career, including a replica of the CBS Evening News studio and anchor desk.

Selected Bibliography

Brinkley, Douglas. Cronkite. New York: HarperCollins, 2012.

Brinkley, Douglas. "The Most Trusted Freshman in America." Texas Monthly, May 2012.

Carleton, Don and Walter Cronkite. Conversations with Cronkite. Austin: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin, 2010.

Cronkite, Walter. A Reporter’s Life. New York: Knopf, 1996.

Cronkite, Walter IV and Maurice Isserman. Cronkite’s War: His World War II Letters Home. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2013. 

Listen to the audio

Spanish Translation

Download the Spanish translation of this Texas Originals script.

Portrait of Walter Cronkite. Courtesy of Boyce Ditto Public Library and The Portal to Texas History.