Walter Cronkite was considered “the most trusted man in America” during his journalism career.
What an honor for the St. Joseph native. Another honor bestowed on the late journalist is the Walter Cronkite Memorial on the campus of Missouri Western State University.
The goal of creating an on-campus memorial belonged to MWSU President Robert Vartabedien.
The memorial opened in November 2013, on the 97th observance of Cronkite’s birth. He died in 2009 at the age of 92.
Cronkite was born in St. Joe in 1916. The family moved to the Kansas City area a year later. The Cronkites visited St. Joe often through the years.
The family moved to Houston in 1927. Walter became a reporter for the Houston post at a young age.
The memorial has a timeline, photographs and a case with memorabilia honoring Cronkite.
An exhibit near the entrance displays several photographs of major events that occurred during Cronkite’s journalism career. I counted the photos to see which ones I could remember from my childhood. Quite a few, honestly. Especially from Vietnam on.
There are photos of President John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Vietnam, the 1972 hostage situation at the Olympics in Munich, as well as the NASA space program, including the first moon landing.
Cronkite was recognized as “the most trusted American in public life” from a survey in 1972. This contributed to his positive reputation.
Cronkite may be best known for the way he handled the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Whenever footage is shown regarding the assassination in Dallas, Texas, his reporting is usually included.
The tide that turned the United States toward wanting to resolved the Vietnam Conflict and return our troops home likely coincided with Cronkite’s visit to the region in 1968. He reported from Vietnam in a series of stories. President Lyndon Johnson ended up not seeking re-election likely because of it.
Cronkite won one of his Emmy awards for his coverage of the Watergate scandal that resulted in the first resignation of a sitting president. Richard Nixon let office rather than face impeachment for his role in covering up the break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate building. He was pardoned by President Gerald Ford shortly after the resignation.
Cronkite reported on the moon landing and other NASA events. He was considered CBS’ “go to” guy for space coverage. A large mural hangs above the first floor of the Leah Spratt building, which houses the memorial.
“Oh, boy” was his only comment, according to the memorial’s website as he watched the Apollo 11 crew touch down on the surface of the moon, marking humankind’s initial visit. The landing occurred in 1969.
Elsewhere at the memorial is a replica of a glider used to land Cronkite and others during World War II. Despite other journalists and military members dying during previous glider attempts, he willingly accepted the assignment to land with the 101st Airborne’s Operation Market Garden in Holland.
A bust of Cronkite was dedicated at the memorial July 16, following our visit.
The Cronkite memorial is open every day but major holidays and is free to the public.
For more information on Walter Cronkite and the memorial, please visit the website https://www.missouriwestern.edu/wcm/index.html.
Cronkite ended each newscast with the words “And that’s the way it is…”