CBS vice president Linda Mason says Cronkite died at 7:42 p.m. Eastern, after a long illness with his family by his side.
Walter Cronkite covered many mysteries and disasters during his lifetime. His Dutch family's surname originally was Krankheyt, which intriguingly means "illness."
Growing up, Cronkite was a member of the Houston chapter of DeMolay, a Masonic fraternal organization for boys. Cronkite was one of eight journalists selected by the U.S. Army Air Forces to fly bombing raids over Germany in a B-17 Flying Fortress. He also landed in a glider with the 101st Airborne in Operation Market-Garden and covered the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he covered the Nuremberg trials, and served as the United Press main reporter in Moscow for two years.
Some of the historic events that were entwined with Cronkite's CBS Evening News broadcast life (1962–81) include the Dallas-based JFK assassination of 1963, the Dexter, Michigan UFO series of 1966, the Memphis-based MLK assassination in 1968, and the lunar landing of 1969. (Apparently, Cronkite had his own UFO experience in the 1950s.)
From 1953 to 1957 and in a 1970s revival version, Cronkite hosted the CBS program You Are There, which reenacted historical events, using the format of a news report. His famous last line for these programs was: "What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times... and you were there."
He also hosted The Twentieth Century, a documentary series about important historical events of the century which was made up almost exclusively of newsreel footage and interviews. It became a long-running hit.
Walter Cronkite was there.
On the CBS Evening News of March 6, 1981, Walter Cronkite's gave this farewell statement:
This is my last broadcast as the anchorman of The CBS Evening News; for me, it's a moment for which I long have planned, but which, nevertheless, comes with some sadness. For almost two decades, after all, we've been meeting like this in the evenings, and I'll miss that. But those who have made anything of this departure, I'm afraid have made too much. This is but a transition, a passing of the baton. A great broadcaster and gentleman, Doug Edwards, preceded me in this job, and another, Dan Rather, will follow. And anyway, the person who sits here is but the most conspicuous member of a superb team of journalists; writers, reporters, editors, producers, and none of that will change. Furthermore, I'm not even going away! I'll be back from time to time with special news reports and documentaries, and, beginning in June, every week, with our science program, Universe. Old anchormen, you see, don't fade away; they just keep coming back for more. And that's the way it is: Friday, March 6, 1981. I'll be away on assignment, and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years. Good night.