Cronkite covered 20th century milestones

July 17, 2009 at 9:50 PM
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NEW YORK, July 17 (UPI) -- Walter Cronkite, the iconic U.S. newsman who died at 92 Friday, was a firsthand observer of some of the most momentous events of the 20th century.

In November 1963, he broke the news to U.S. television viewers that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.

His February 1968 report, following a trip to the Vietnam War zone, was widely credited with influencing public opinion and changing the course of the U.S. conduct of the war.

"To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past," he said. "To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion."

Cronkite was among the correspondents who accompanied President Richard Nixon on his historic visit to China in February 1972 and to the Soviet Union in May of that year.

After the Watergate scandal broke in 1972, Cronkite anchored nightly updates on the investigation, the subsequent attempt in the House of Representatives to impeach Nixon and Nixon's resignation in 1974.

Cronkite's celebrity gave him access to the high and mighty. He covered their triumphs and their tragedies, traveling abroad dozens of times for one-on-one interviews with such figures as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, Premier Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt and Britain's Prince Philip.

In addition to his coverage of three assassinations -- John Kennedy in 1963 and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert Kennedy in 1968 -- he covered the funerals of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1965, former U.S. President Harry Truman in 1972 and former President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1973.

In 1952, Cronkite took part in the first direct television report from the White House when President Truman took him and other network correspondents on a broadcast tour of the presidential residence.

Decades after his retirement, Cronkite said he didn't miss being on the air but he missing "being at the center of gravity, getting the story together, getting the broadcast together, setting the agenda for the people's consideration."

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