In Memoriam: Walter Cronkite, 1916-2009

July 20th, 2009

The Trustees and staff of WNET.ORG, parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, express their profound sorrow over the loss of Walter Cronkite. A broadcasting legend and a true American icon, Walter was a close friend, enthusiastic partner and avid supporter of WNET for many years. In 1990, he became a member of the Board of Trustees, and in 1992 served as Honorary Chairman of The Campaign for Thirteen, the largest capital campaign in the history of public television. He remained an active member of the Board until 2002, when he became a Life Trustee. Over the years, Walter brought his journalistic skills to a number of acclaimed programs created by WNET, including “City at War: London Calling” and “Legacy of War.” For many years, Walter served as host of an annual tradition, “Great Performances: From Vienna: The New Year’s Celebration.” Befitting his stature as an American legend, he was also the subject of an “American Masters” profile – “Walter Cronkite: Witness to History” created by THIRTEEN. A man who set the standard for integrity in television journalism, Walter’s commitment to public broadcasting was truly inspirational. We extend our condolences to his family and we join the nation mourning the passing of a man who personified the highest aspirations of American media.

James S. Tisch,
Neal Shapiro,
President and CEO

When Walter Cronkite spoke, America listened. A larger-than-life figure, he united the nation around the institution of television news. When Walter was in the anchor chair, the public felt they were in good hands, that a sense of order prevailed. When he closed each newscast with his trademark, “That’s the way it is,” his audience never had the slightest doubt. Lyndon Johnson said it all when he famously remarked: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.” That’s how important he was. Perhaps no single figure will ever hold such a place of authority in the minds of Americans again. We will always remember him as “the most trusted man in America,” the man who personified broadcast journalism for a generation.

–Neal Shapiro, President & CEO, WNET.ORG

Of all Walter Cronkite’s remarkable qualities, one stands out above all – his humanity. While he was one of the most important and influential figures in the nation, he never lost sight of the true nature of his work – to inform and enlighten the public, and, consequently, to strengthen American democracy. Over the years, I was privileged to witness his compassion and his civic spirit time and again. He did so much to support the cause of public broadcasting, and to promote arts, culture, and history in any way he could. He was a great friend, a role model for all who care about journalism, and an inspiration to countless people.

–Bill Baker, President Emeritus, WNET.ORG

Walter Cronkite loved music and dancing, which is why he jumped at the opportunity to return to Vienna in 1984 — where he had been stationed as a correspondent following World War II — to host the 1985 Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Day Concert. For nearly a quarter of a century, he created a tradition on PBS of ushering in the New Year with the festive waltzes, polkas and marches of the Strauss family. All of us at GREAT PERFORMANCES will miss watching Walter and his beloved wife Betsy as they danced to the strains of the Blue Danube when the clock struck midnight.

–David Horn, Executive Producer, GREAT PERFORMANCES