We have seen a number of public figures pass away lately.  Some hold a higher stature and get more news coverage than others.  Walter Cronkite, though he was ling retired, is one of those people deserving of a note in passing.

The television was not a central focus at our house growing up, but I do remember Mr. Cronkite being a regular visitor to our TV set. He WAS the news when I was growing up — all other news presenters were compared (favorably or unfavorably) to him.

Cronkite was first noted in recent reporting for his coverage of John F Kennedy’s death in 1963.  Certainly Kennedy’s death happened when I was a very small child, but other events like the moon landing and the Vietnam war stand out more in my mind and will forever be associated with his reporting. When we opened up the window to the world in the evening, it was Cronkite that was describing what we saw.  We saw the world through his eyes.

Cronkite would have never fit in with the entertainment/news programs today that pass for news. He did not try to awe us with news of the unusual. He merely pointed out to us what was going on out there in the world. He did that with excellence.

In 1983, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Cronkite briefly when he made a presentation at our university to the students in our department before appearing at a larger university function that evening. (Another CBS News pioneer, Edward R Murrow, had been a student at our school in the distant past, and a number of events were “Murrow-themed.”) I count that moment as one of the most memorable events in my life. There was that sort of “meeting a rock star” feeling where I not only got to meet someone who I had respected throughout my childhood, I could also look at him as an example. As a student of Communications & Broadcasting at Washington State University, I could never attain his notoriety, but it sure gave a person a goal to aim for.

Walter Cronkite was not only the top of his trade at a national level, and not only inspiration to a group of communications majors on a wintry day in 1983, but represented a figure that we will likely not see again on television. You might say that no one else will reach his level of skill or notoriety, or that no network producer will ever allow anyone else to reach those heights. In the end, it is unlikely that any one person will ever be widely trusted by so many Americans.

I mourn his passing.