July 19, 2009

AND OUTLASTED TELEVISION:

Walter Cronkite, 92, Dies; Trusted Voice of TV News (DOUGLAS MARTIN, 7/18/09, NY Times)

Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. was born on Nov. 4, 1916, in St. Joseph, Mo., the son of Walter Leland Cronkite Sr., a dentist, and the former Helen Lena Fritsche. His ancestors had settled in New Amsterdam, the Dutch colony that became New York. As a boy, Walter peddled magazines door to door and hawked newspapers. As a teenager, after the family had moved to Houston, he got a job with The Houston Post as a copy boy and cub reporter. At the same time, he had a paper route delivering The Post to his neighbors.

“As far as I know, there were no other journalists delivering the morning paper with their own compositions inside,” he wrote in his autobiography.

When he was 16, Mr. Cronkite went with friends to Chicago for the 1933 World’s Fair. He volunteered to help demonstrate an experimental version of television.

“I could honestly say to all of my colleagues, ‘I was in television long before you were,’ ” he said in an interview with CBS News in 1996.

Mr. Cronkite attended the University of Texas for two years, studying political science, economics and journalism, working on the school newspaper and picking up journalism jobs with The Houston Press and other newspapers. He also auditioned to be an announcer at an Austin radio station but was turned down. He left college in 1935 without graduating to take a job as a reporter with The Press.

While visiting Kansas City, Mo., he was hired by the radio station KCMO to read news and broadcast football games under the name Walter Wilcox. (Radio stations at the time wanted to “own” announcers’ names so that popular ones could not be taken elsewhere.)

He was not at the games but received cryptic summaries of each play by telegraph. These provided fodder for vivid descriptions of the action. He added details of what local men in the stands were wearing, which he learned by calling their wives. He found out in advance what music the band would be playing so he could describe halftime festivities.

At KCMO, Mr. Cronkite met an advertising writer named Mary Elizabeth Maxwell. The two read a commercial together. One of Mr. Cronkite’s lines was, “You look like an angel.” They were married for 64 years until her death in 2005.

In addition to his son, Walter Leland III, known as Chip, Mr. Cronkite is survived by his daughters, Nancy Elizabeth and Mary Kathleen; and four grandsons.

In his last years, Joanna Simon, a former opera singer and sister of Carly Simon, was his frequent companion.


Mr. Cronkite had one good moment. Having taken one of his children to visit prospective college campuses he said: There are two places I wouldn't let my daughter go, the DMZ in Vietnam and Colgate during Spring Party Weekend.


Posted by at July 19, 2009 7:05 AM

  

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