Born on November 4, 1916, in Saint Joseph, Missouri the son of Helen Lena (née Fritsche; August 1892 – November 1993), and Dr. Walter Leland Cronkite (September 1893 – May 1973), a dentist. He had remote Dutch ancestry on his father’s side, the family surname originally being Krankheyt.
In 1936, he met his future wife, Mary Elizabeth Maxwell (known by her nickname “Betsy”), while working as the sports announcer for KCMO (AM) in Kansas City, Missouri. His broadcast name was “Walter Wilcox”.
He would explain later that radio stations at the time did not want people to use their real names for fear of taking their listeners with them if they left. In Kansas City, he joined the United Press in 1937.
He became one of the top American reporters in World War II, covering battles in North Africa and Europe, and in 1943 turned down a job offer from Edward R. Murrow of CBS to relieve Bill Downs in Moscow.
Cronkite was one of eight journalists selected by the United States Army Air Forces to fly bombing raids over Germany in a B-17 Flying Fortress part of group called the Writing 69th, and during a mission fired a machine gun at a German fighter.#
During the early part of his tenure anchoring the CBS Evening News, Cronkite competed against NBC’s anchor team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, who anchored the Huntley-Brinkley Report. For most of the 1960s, the Huntley-Brinkley Report had more viewers than Cronkite’s broadcast.
This began to change in the late 1960s, as RCA made a corporate decision not to fund NBC News at the levels CBS funded CBS News. Consequently, CBS News acquired a reputation for greater accuracy and depth in its broadcast journalism.
This reputation meshed nicely with Cronkite’s wire service experience, and in 1967 the CBS Evening News began to surpass The Huntley-Brinkley Report in viewership during the summer months.
On February 15, 2005, he went into the studio at CBS to record narration for WCC Chatham Radio, a documentary about Guglielmo Marconi and his Chatham station, which became the busiest ship-to-shore wireless station in North America from 1914 to 1994.
The documentary was directed by Christopher Seufert of Mooncusser Films and premiered at the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center in April 2005.
During his distinguished career, Cronkite has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Peabody Award twice and several Emmy Awards as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981.
Most recently, he received the News World International? Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 and the 2004 Harry S Truman Good Neighbour Award from the Truman Foundation. In 2006, Cronkite hosted the World War One Living History Project, a program honouring America’s final handful of veterans from the First World War.
The program was created by Treehouse Productions and aired on NPR on November 11, 2006. In May 2009, Legacy of War, produced by PBS, was released.