It was Nov. 22, 1963, and the world was reeling from news that President John F. Kennedy had just been shot in Dallas, Texas. At 1:38 p.m., Walter Cronkite announced that the 35th President of the United States was dead. In an emotional broadcast, his words choked on emotions, and he removed his glasses to wipe a tear from his eye. The American people were devastated that the dream of Camelot had been shattered. The strong, distinct voice of America’s favorite television news anchor was a calm presence amidst the devastation of that day. Walter Cronkite was the father of television broadcasting. In an era where television news was limited to only 15 minutes of broadcasting, Cronkite connected with viewers through his steady voice and crinkly-eyed smile. Named “the most trusted man in America”, Cronkite reported on events ranging from World War II, the 1960 Winter Olympics, the gas crisis of ’73 and Watergate. He was known for closing each news report with the date, followed by the statement “…and that’s the way it is.” Born in Saint Joseph, Cronkite has strong roots in the state of Missouri. He worked for various news outlets in Kansas City during the 1930s and 40s. His legacy in our great state is one that we should take pride in, as Cronkite represented the core values that were integral to the success of his generation: a strong work ethic, family values, honesty and class. One is reminded of the influence of Walter Cronkite after visiting the memorial in his honor at Missouri Western State University in St. Joe. The Walter Cronkite Memorial is a dedication to the man who connected families to national and world events every evening. Dr. Robert Vartabedian, President of Missouri Western State University, envisioned creating a memorial that honored St. Joseph’s beloved native son. I had the privilege of visiting the memorial recently with my mother, who shared her memories with me about the events that Cronkite reported on, as well as how influential Cronkite was to the “greatest generation.” The memorial is a fitting tribute that presents viewers with a historical photograph display, video clips of Cronkite’s 19 years as the CBS Evening News anchor, caricatures by artist Al Hirschfield, a memorabilia case, and several other fascinating features. As I travelled through the memorial, I wondered how many Missourians are even aware that such a memorial exists for Cronkite. Here are some interesting facts about Cronkite: • He was a paperboy for The Kansas City Star beginning at age nine. • Cronkite’s bride to be, Betsy, was 45 minutes late for their wedding (not to worry, they were married for nearly 65 years). • He won eight Emmy awards, but deems the Emmy that he won for his coverage of the Watergate scandal his most valued. • Cronkite was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians in 1999. Being alive for only a few years of Cronkite’s final years as the CBS evening news anchor, I was not privileged to witnessing most of his historical broadcasts. I do, however, recognize the power of his influence on the fabric of American history. He was instrumental in fostering a trusting relationship with his viewers. In the current climate of 24 hour news coverage by slews of nameless talking heads, the legacy that Mr. Cronkite leaves behind is immeasurable. The memorial dedicated to his legacy invites us to honor a man who valued the art of true broadcasting. And, that’s the way it is. The Cronkite Memorial is located in Spratt Hall on the Missouri Western University campus. For more information on the memorial, or tours and field trips, call (816) 271-4100, or visit WalterCronkiteMemorial.org. Until next time…Be Well.
Diane Bigler is a licensed clinical social worker who lives in Platte City with her family. She may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.