Douglas Brinkley presents the definitive, revealing biography of an American legend: renowned news anchor Walter Cronkite.
An acclaimed author and historian, Brinkley has drawn upon recently disclosed letters, diaries, and other artifacts at the recently opened Cronkite Archive to bring detail and depth to this deeply personal portrait.
He also interviewed nearly two hundred of Cronkite’s closest friends and colleagues, including Andy Rooney, Leslie Stahl, Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, Brian Williams, Les Moonves, Christiane Amanpour, Katie Couric, Bob Schieffer, Ted Turner, Jimmy Buffett, and Morley Safer, using their voices to instill dignity and humanity in this study of one of America’s most beloved and trusted public figures.
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About the Author
Douglas Brinkley is the Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and Professor of History at Rice University, a CNN Presidential Historian, and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. In the world of public history, he serves on boards, at museums, at colleges, and for historical societies. The Chicago Tribune dubbed him “America’s New Past Master.” The New-York Historical Society has chosen Brinkley as its official U.S. Presidential Historian. His recent book Cronkite won the Sperber Prize, while The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. He was awarded a Grammy for Presidential Suite and is the recipient of seven honorary doctorates in American studies. His two-volume, annotated Nixon Tapes recently won the Arthur S. Link–Warren F. Kuehl Prize. He is a member of the Century Association, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the James Madison Council of the Library of Congress. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and three children.
Table of Contents
Part I The Making of a Reporter
1 Missouri Boy 15
2 Houston Youth 33
3 Learning a Trade 55
4 Making of a Unipresser 87
Part II The Second World War
5 Gearing Up for Europe 111
6 The Writing Sixty-Ninth 140
7 Dean of the Air War 171
8 Gliding to V-E Day 192
9 From the Nuremberg Trials to Russia 219
Part III Cold War Broadcaster
10 Infancy of TV News 237
11 Election Night and UNIVAC 262
12 Mr. CBS Utility Man 285
13 The Huntley and Brinkley Challenge 302
14 Torch Is Passed 331
15 New Space Frontier on CBS 367
Part IV Anchorman
16 Anchorman of Camelot 399
17 The Kennedy Assassination 438
18 Who's Afraid of the Nielsen Ratings? 475
19 Paley's Attempted Smackdown 506
20 Civil Rights and Project Gemini 540
21 What to Do About Vietnam? 568
22 The Tet Offensive 614
Part V Top Game
23 Calm and Chaos of 1968 651
24 Mr. Moon Shot 684
25 Avatar of Earth Day 713
26 The Nixon-versus-CBS War 740
27 Reportable Truth in the Age of Nixon 769
28 Fan Clubs, Stalkers, and Political Good-byes 812
29 A Time to Heal 851
30 Live with Jimmy Carter 880
Part VI The Spokesperson
31 Retirement Blues 921
32 Struggling Elder Statesman 959
33 Defiant Liberal 993
34 "The World's Oldest Reporter" 1033
35 The New Millennium 1069
Epilogue: Electronic Uncle Sam 1107
Biographical Glossary 1150
Author's Interviews 1404
What People are Saying About This
“In this absorbing and sensitively-written biography, Douglas Brinkley has captured not only the life and momentous decades of a uniquely American legend, but also the heartbeat of a nation in its times of both triumph and tragedy.”
“Walter Cronkite exemplified the glorious age of trusted journalism. In this deeply researched and brilliantly analytic biography, Douglas Brinkley captures his essence. He treats Cronkite as not just an icon, but as a real human with passions, loves, and occasional enmities. It’s a fascinating and valuable tale.”
“Douglas Brinkley’s absorbing and well-researched book recaptures the high solstice of American television journalism and the man who most exemplified that moment. It also illuminates, behind the scenes, a Walter Cronkite that millions of Americans thought they knew, but, as Brinkley’s book now shows us, didn’t.”
“This sweeping narrative of Walter Cronkite’s life is irresistibly told, beautifully written, and deeply researched. Douglas Brinkley has produced one trustworthy biography after another, each one commanding widespread respect and admiration. And this is one of the very best.”
“Exhaustively researched and beautifully written, Cronkite is a classic. Douglas Brinkley has written his best book yet. This is a fascinating story that will be read for years to come.”
“The personal and professional life of Walter Cronkite is an American treasure - and we should all be grateful to Douglas Brinkley for telling it so well.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As a child of the 1970s when I think about Walter Cronkite, I don’t really remember seeing him broadcast the news on television. I have watched countless replays and reports on this iconic figure but he seems to me more of as a familiar great uncle. I did meet him once and he came across as that crazy uncle everyone has, who is full of stories that revolve around him. In Cronkite by Douglas Brinkley, it gave me a new perspective on this newsman. He came to be in an age of the new world of television. What I found fascinating is that many of the criticism of television reporting in the day are the same that you hear about the new journalism on the internet. That these news bits are superficial, they are not real reporting, and that anyone now can call themselves a reporter. What you learn in this book is that Cronkite was a make no waves kind of guy. The kind that everyone liked, he had a knack for sharing the events of the day in an easy conversational style. This boy from middle America could connect and until this day still holds the title the most trusted man in television. If he said it, it must be true, you could take his word to the bank as the old maxim goes. Cronkite also was a part of the greatest generation the ones that tried to do the right thing and a precursor to the “me” generation that we live in today. Cronkite covered the great stories of his day, the assassination of President Kennedy, the space race, and world events. As Brinkley masterfully does in his writings he takes you into his world, as if you were a fly on the course of his life. You feel closer to this distant uncle and wish you would have been more appreciative of him while he was still around. Maybe he wasn’t as crazy as you thought. A quick read, Cronkite takes you back to a simpler time where the world was not so noisy with information overload and America was the shinny city on the hill. A good read for fans or those who want to learn more about this gentleman from Middle America.
About 15 years ago, I read Walter Cronkite’s autobiography, A Reporter’s Life, and was extremely disappointed in it. It seemed a superficial and half-hearted attempt at chronicling his life. That may be due to the fact that I read his autobiography about the time I read Personal History by Katharine Graham, an autobiography which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998. Personal History was an amazing book, meticulously researched and sourced, and insightful. A Reporter’s Life suffered in comparison. When I saw that a real historian was writing a biography of Uncle Walter, I bought it right away. I was NOT disappointed. While it is not an “authorized biography,” Cronkite’s children were helpful to the author, and wanted a complete story of their father told, warts and all. And there are a few warts. Although I figured there was no love lost between Cronkite and his successor as CBS anchorman, Dan Rather, it appears that Cronkite detested Rather – and was elated when Rather’s career crashed and burned over some very sloppy reporting about President George W. Bush and his not-so-illustrious career in the Texas Air National Guard during the Viet Nam era. Cronkite is an engaging work of history by an academic who doesn’t write like one. And even with all the “warts” revealed, the book’s subject still comes out looking like a hero. Douglas Brinkley also evokes superbly the times during which Cronkite was a working journalist – World War II, the Kennedy assassination, the Cold War, the NASA space program -- and sheds light on the people Cronkite worked with and reported on. Cronkite is over 800 pages, heavy enough to serve as a doorstop, but well worth the time it takes to read and absorb it.
I found this to be a very well written and intersting book. Since I don't care for "celebrity" biography, I was a bit concerned at first. But this book is anything but that. As a person who enjoys works of historical biography, I was not disappointed. Brinkley is an excellent writer and Cronkite a very intersting man. A very good book showing the growth of TV media, as well as the intersection between TV media and popular culture. Highly recommend this book.
I grew up in this era and remember Cronkite's Apollo broadcasts as a small boy. Very interesting to know how TV News started and what it has become today. Great read!
I especially liked the historical picture of CBS news and the workings of the press during world and national events and news anchor struggles with management.
A very detailed description of Walter Cronkite's life. Great overview along with the details of Mr. Cronkite's early life and a great description of the anchorman years. Probably a bit too much gossip description or interactions about Dan Rather, Barbara Walters and other competitors involved in the journalism field. But all-in-all a great book too read on an individual who was so well known, trusted and part of 20th Century America.
About 15 years ago, I read Walter Cronkite¿s autobiography, A Reporter¿s Life, and was extremely disappointed in it. It seemed a superficial and half-hearted attempt at chronicling his life. That may be due to the fact that I read his autobiography about the time I read Personal History by Katharine Graham, an autobiography which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998. Personal History was an amazing book, meticulously researched and sourced, and insightful. A Reporter¿s Life suffered in comparison. When I saw that a real historian was writing a biography of Uncle Walter, I bought it right away. I was NOT disappointed. While it is not an ¿authorized biography,¿ Cronkite¿s children were helpful to the author, and wanted a complete story of their father told, warts and all. And there are a few warts. Although I figured there was no love lost between Cronkite and his successor as CBS anchorman, Dan Rather, it appears that Cronkite detested Rather ¿ and was elated when Rather¿s career crashed and burned over some very sloppy reporting about President George W. Bush and his not-so-illustrious career in the Texas Air National Guard during the Viet Nam era. Cronkite is an engaging work of history by an academic who doesn¿t write like one. And even with all the ¿warts¿ revealed, the book¿s subject still comes out looking like a hero. Douglas Brinkley also evokes superbly the times during which Cronkite was a working journalist ¿ World War II, the Kennedy assassination, the Cold War, the NASA space program -- and sheds light on the people Cronkite worked with and reported on. Cronkite is over 800 pages, heavy enough to serve as a doorstop, but well worth the time it takes to read and absorb it.
We only had two TV stations growing up in Mississippi back in the 60's and mid 70's. CBS was the one we watched because that's where Walter was. Walter was bigger than life to me with maybe the exception of Elvis. Although some family members we not big fans of northern media input it was one of the first times I can recall thinking for myself. The Nixon Era was tough and I liked Tricky Dick but I trusted Walter's view. I could just feel it being right. He made sense to me. Well written to say the least. I enjoyed every word. Thank you
n 1979 the great David Halberstam wrote a masterful book about the media called The Powers That Be. I don't know if anyone has written a worthy update. Douglas Brinkley tried, using CBS anchor Walter Cronkite as his subject. The biography is interesting but somehow misses being everything it could be. Cronkite's long career paralleled the rise of TV news; perhaps Brinkley should have focused on his active years with CBS from the 50s to the 80s. A lot of space devoted to Walter's long retirement might have been more profitably used in deeper analysis of Vietnam and Watergate coverage. Brinkley can be critical of Cronkite, but he seems unable to pinpoint exactly why the TV news anchor is no longer the oracle he (or she) once was. He also seems overly critical of Dan Rather, ignoring the fact Rather was CBS Evening News anchor longer than Cronkite.
Simply an outstanding book
Great book that provides details of Walter Cronkite's rise to the CBS news editor/anchorman and his passion for unbiased news reporting.