Walter Cronkite, The life of a man of Integrity

Long ago there were news men. They were special, They were exemplified by men like Cronkite and Reasoner. They stated facts, facts that had been back-checked, facts that one could rely on. Always, they were professional, always they were reliable, always they were unbiased.















The aptly named Harry Reasoner

I remember Cronkite telling the world of the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He stated the facts, then in uncommon emotion, he removed his glasses for a moment, to allow the tears to fall, replaced his glasses, and did his job.

He had known John Kennedy. They met when Cronkite interviewed him. I know much of them both and I am certain that they found commonality in their shared passion for sailing.

I, too, met Cronkite. I was in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was then recently retired. As part of his payment for his commentary of the America’s Cup race, he received a yacht. She was a Sunward 48.

Like me, Walter was a sailor. The yacht had been made for him. He had a special chair that rolled to level on a set of captive casters behind the wheel. It kept his seat level on any angle of heel. It had been on his old boat, and he requested it be installed on his new one. She was a beautiful boat, brand new and perfect. Everything that a sailor could wish for had been carefully incorporated.

Cronkite with his gimballed helm chair (by Getty Images)

It was a crisp morning. A close friend called me to the marina where my sailboat was docked. “Come down, right away!  Walter Cronkite is launching his new boat today”, he said. I was there in a flash. It stood on jack stands, off of the water in the gravel parking lot. It was brand new, beautiful, big, and grand, and we stood, mouths open in wonder. Before long, Walter and his family came and climbed aboard. By now, a small crowd of ne’er-do-wells collected to gawk, as ne’er-do-wells are apt to do.

The family, and the great Cronkite, had left their shoes on the ground and had climbed into the beautiful cabin to see, for the first time, their new yacht. In a few minutes, Walter emerged. “Come on board” he yelled to the crowd. I dared not. It was their moment. Though I wanted so to see the boat, to meet the man, it was a family time, so I stood and gazed into those great eyes, spellbound.

The others scurried up the ladder, black soled shoes with gravel dust grinding into the perfect deck. I cringed. He said nothing. “You, too” he shouted, looking at me and my friend. We dropped our shoes and climbed into the cockpit, and Walter showed us the cabin and the arrangement of the little ship. That is the quality of man that he was.

At that wonderful moment, when fate and hard work shone so graciously on him, he reached down to a couple of ragged sailors and made us a part of it. He was great by every measure.


Scott Cahill