cronkite's No. 1 fan
James, a schoolteacher from Mobile, Alabama, spent 15 years researching
his 1991 biography, Walter Cronkite:
His Life & Times. He knows pretty much all there is to
know about the former CBS newsman.
some time with Walter's mother, Helen Fritsche Cronkite. How
did you two meet?
I knew Helen was living in Washington, D.C., so I phoned her
and she was very receptive. We wrote until her eyesight got bad,
and now we phone. Walter is still her little boy.
do anything as a kid that would drive her crazy?
No, she never would say that.
in the book that Walter likes striptease acts. Can you elaborate?
It's never been a sleaze thing. He and wife Betsy have a wholesome
interest in this form of entertainment. He does a parody striptease
at parties, where he takes off his jacket. It's a joke with his
friends. It's healthy, I think. I don't know. I've never been
to one. It's not that I'm not interested I don't have
the nerve a lot of folks do.
ever told you that you look a bit like Walter?
I look more like John Chancellor.
point you write, "If the book reads like a homage to a nearly
perfect man, I believe I have not exaggerated." Do you think
that's stretching it?
I don't. When you think about the people who produce the news,
how many are there? And who comes to mind as the best?
are no glaring faults Walter might have to work on?
Not a single one. Isn't that incredible?
ever had dreams about him?
in the book that Walter had suggested you visit his ophthalmologist
for an eye problem you had. It sounds like you were close.
You should have seen my eye. It was blood red. He has eye troubles
Walter usually have for lunch?
He had what his assistants called a "Cronkite Special"
a leaf of lettuce with cottage cheese and a slice of pineapple.
And sometimes Metrocal.
boating, does he have any other hobbies?
He's a daredevil. He's dived in a submarine under the Arctic
ice cap, he flew in a plane they were testing for zero gravity,
and he did the hot air ballooning thing in France with Malcolm
Forbes. The balloon came down too fast and dragged him across
be the perfect gift for Walter?
I was looking at the Tiffany's catalog and I thought if I ever
make any money there's a pair of cuff links that are gold and
porcelain of anchors or ship wheels.
his favorite color?
Probably blue, with water and the sky and sailing.
about his disastrous experience on the CBS morning show in 1954.
There are pictures of him with a huge ostrich and other puppets,
Humphrey the Hound Dog and Charlemagne the Lion. He was expected
to read the news. It was too ambitious.
it people trust Walter?
It's that comfortable look. He's not skinny, he's not fat, he's
just pleasantly plump.
that deep down he's a scoundrel?
Knowing his mother, I just couldn't believe that.
of this interview appeared in American Journalism Review, March
A Reporter's Life,
by Walter Cronkite (book)
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