Cronkite was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, and grew up in Houston, Texas. After various newspaper reporter jobs covering news and sports, he entered broadcasting as a radio announcer for a station in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He joined the United Press in 1937, and became one of the top American reporters in World War II, covering battles in North Africa and Europe. After the war, he covered Nazi war crimes trials, and served as the United Press main reporter in Moscow for 2 years.
In 1950 he joined CBS news, in their growing young television division. He anchored the network's coverage of the 1952 Presidential election, as he would continue to do with American elections until his retirement.
Cronkite served as anchorman of the CBS Evening News from April 16, 1962 until March 6, 1981, a job in which he became an American icon.
During the early part of his time anchoring the CBS Evening News, he competed against the NBC anchor team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, who anchored the Huntley-Brinkley Report. During the greater part of the 1960s, the Huntley-Brinkley Report had more viewers than Cronkite's broadcast. This began to change in the late 1960s, as RCA made a corporate decision not to fund NBC News at the levels CBS funded CBS News. Consequently, CBS News acquired a reputation for accuracy and depth in broadcast journalism. This reputation meshed nicely with Cronkite's wire service experience, and in 1968, the CBS Evening News began to surpass the Huntley-Brinkley Report in viewership during the summer months. The CBS Evening News achieved total dominance of the American news viewing audience in 1970, when Huntley retired and corporate dithering on RCA's part crippled the selection of a successor anchor, and sucessive format. During this time, Cronkite's broadcast achieved a dominance it would not lose while he was at the anchor desk.
For many years, Cronkite was considered one of the most trusted figures in the United States. Affectionately known as "Uncle Walter", he covered many of the important news events of the era so effectively that his image and voice are closely associated with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the Apollo 11 Moon landing, and the Watergate scandal. He is remembered by many as finishing the CBS Evening News with the phrase, "....and that's the way it is."
The annoucement of his retirement plans February 14, 1980 became a national event. He was succeeded on the CBS Evening News by Dan Rather.
He continued to broadcast occasionally as a special correspondent for CBS and CNN into the 21st century; one such occasion was Cronkite anchoring the second space flight by John Glenn in 1998 as he had Glenn's first in 1962.
His projects since his retirement have included voicing a character based on Benjamin Franklin in the educational television cartoon Liberty's Kids and, as Amateur Radio operator KB2GSD, narrating a documentary about Amateur Radio in the public service for the American Radio Relay League.
The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication is part of Arizona State University.