Top 10 Walter Cronkite Moments: JFK, Vietnam, Watergate

From April 1962 until March 1981, Walter Cronkite – or Uncle Walter – was the face of the CBS Evening News. During that time, he became the most trusted man in America for his calm, detailed and authoritative reports on important twentieth century events. Because of his job, Cronkite’s memory has become intertwined with many of those events – for example, most remember when he removed his glasses to announce President John F. Kennedy had died. He was a pioneer and one of the greatest newsmen of the twentieth century. In this video, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the Top 10 TV News Moments in Walter Cronkite’s Career.
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“And that’s the way it is.” Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down the top 10 most memorable TV news moments in the career of Walter Cronkite.

Walter Cronkite was born November 4th, 1916 in Saint Joseph, Missouri. He gained prominence as a reporter during World War II, and became the CBS Evening News anchor on April 16th, 1962. By 1970, this gentle authority figure was the top-rated news anchor, and as “the most trusted man in America” due to his reliable reports on major twentieth century events.

#10 – Iran Hostage Crisis (1980-1981)

When a group of Americans were taken hostage in Iran by Islamist militants, the country took notice. Months passed without resolution, and this prompted Cronkite to add a countdown after his famous closing catchphrase to emphasize how long the crisis had been ongoing. He kept this going until they were finally released over a year later.

#9 – Three Mile Island Incident (March 30th, 1979)

Fear from the Cold War was still pervading the American consciousness, as was the threat of nuclear war. When the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant experienced a partial meltdown, it was no wonder the masses were frightened. As radioactive gas leaked into Pennsylvania, Cronkite offered his support to the nation in the form of a detailed and calm report.

#8 – His Retirement (March 6th, 1981)

He had been the face of CBS for twenty years, and had reported on the most significant events during that time. However, in 1981, Cronkite announced his retirement. This father figure vacated his anchor chair in favor of Dan Rather, but not before he gave audiences one last, memorable signoff.

#7 – Watergate Report (October 27th, 1972)

Though the Washington Post had already broken the Watergate story, Cronkite and his CBS news team compiled a comprehensive report for an even wider segment of the American public. Cronkite made “the Watergate caper” a national news story right before the 1972 presidential election, and lent credibility to the shocking allegations.

#6 – MLK’s Death (April 4th, 1968)

Martin Luther King Jr. was known as one of the best orators of all time, and it was only fitting that his death was announced by another talented speaker. Cronkite got straight to the point when recounting this assassination, and spared no details. Though a few of his word choices were dated, this report went down in history as one of the best.

#5 – LBJ’s Death (January 22nd, 1973)

In the years before flashy breaking news graphics, all Cronkite needed was a hand gesture to suggest something important had happened. He was first to receive word that former president Lyndon Johnson had died, and was already in the middle of a newscast when he did. Cronkite had the guts to let dead air run while he got the whole story.

#4 – Democratic National Convention (August 27th, 1968)

That year’s Democratic National Convention came at a time when the Vietnam War raged, the civil rights movement was at full steam and numerous important leaders had been assassinated. The result was violence in Chicago, where police clashed with anti-war protesters, and security sparred with young reporters like Dan Rather. Though Cronkite later said he regretted showing his anger, it was nice to see his human side.

#3 – Moon Landing (July 20th, 1969)

Another one of history’s most significant moments is forever linked with this veteran newsman. The Apollo 11 moon landing was not only a giant leap for mankind; it was also a highlight in Cronkite’s career due to his love of the space program. Unlike anchors who preceded him, Cronkite showed his excitement on the news that day: he was so in awe of the event, even he was unable to speak.

#2 – The Vietnam War (February 27th, 1968)

1968 was a year of upheaval in the United States, and one of the most divisive issues was the Vietnam War. Cronkite visited the war torn country to witness the consequences of the Tet Offensive firsthand, and what he found was an unwinnable war. Cronkite’s unprecedented commentary turned public opinion against the war, and weeks later, President Johnson announced he would not seek a second term.

#1 – JFK’s Death (November 22nd, 1963)

Taking the top spot on our list is a moment that united the entire nation in grief. TV news was in its infancy, and Cronkite delivered the news of President Kennedy’s shooting and eventual death with characteristic poise, restraint, and controlled emotion. The figure of “Uncle Walter” removing his glasses to break the news became one of many defining images from that day.
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