American journalism icon Walter Cronkite has passed away and I am feeling at a real loss thinking he will no longer walk among us. For those of us who grew up in the Baby Boom generation, Uncle Walter, as he was affectionately known, was our connection to truthful, straightforward, unbiased television news. He was considered to be the most trusted man in America by poll after poll during his tenure as the anchor on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite from 1962 through 1981. Before the computer age, before the cable news channels that have given us news almost before it is news, there was Walter Cronkite each night with a half hour synopsis of the day's events. During a tumultous and sometimes frightening period in world events, Walter Cronkite could be trusted to put it all in perspective. He was at his anchor desk when he momentarily lost his composure to announce to a shocked nation that President Kennedy had been assasinated. He was there to help us through the scary moments of the Cold War years. Like me he was as giddy as a school boy when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
I often remember where I was when certain important historic events have taken place. I vividly remember the hot July day in 1969 when I sat in my father's brown naugahyde recliner in our family room and watched Neal Armstrong take "one small step for mankind." I remember the shock on all our faces in Mrs. Hatch's 5th grade class when the principal tearfully came on the intercom and announced that President Kennedy had been killed and that school was going to be dismissed. School was out for a week and Walter Cronkite was our family's choice to watch the historic events of Kennedy's funeral. I will always remember when the Viet Nam War ended and no more 19 year olds would be drafted. Mr. Cronkite went to Viet Nam and his report back to the nation that the war was at a stalemate and a peaceful end needed to be negotiated helped convince the nation we were on the wrong course. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the Hippies, the Civil Rights Era, the Watts Riots and the anger turning many inner cities into infernos, Watergate--Walter Cronkite reported it all from his anchor's seat. These were intense times in our nation's history and Mr. Cronkite helped many of us to better understand and sort through the craziness.
Though he hasn't been a regular presence in our lives for many years, in those moments when I have heard his distinctive voice for a PBS voiceover or he appeared on stage to MC the annual Presidential Awards in Washington, D.C., somehow all seemed right with the world. Tonight, when I read of his passing, I paused to remember where I was. I guess "that's the way it is." But, I will miss him. God speed, Uncle Walter!