Walter Cronkite is coming home. Or, at least, his stuff is. The legendary American newscaster and former University of Texas student — he attended during the 1930s and worked as a Daily Texan reporter — died July 17, 2009, but the university has been collecting his personal and professional effects since 1988.
That's when Don Carleton, executive director of UT's Briscoe Center for American History, met Cronkite to put in his bid for the center as a repository for Cronkite's papers and other memorabilia. The two became fast friends and remained so until Cronkite's death, when Carleton was dispatched to the newsman's office and New York apartment to identify and organize the remainder of his belongings.
Cronkite's passing, the new acquisitions and an offer of space from the LBJ Library and Museum resulted in an opportunity to showcase ‘the most trusted man in America's' legacy in the exhibition ‘Cronkite: Eyewitness to a Century,' which opened Saturday, May 15 and runs through Jan. 3.
The exhibit explores Cronkite's entire life, emphasizing his proximity to history. Artifacts reveal his perspective on D-Day, the Kennedy assassination, civil rights, Vietnam, Watergate and, of course, the space program. But relics and papers can't tell the whole story, so the exhibit includes copious audio and video clips of Cronkite on the job.
‘It was very important to me that Walter be there,' Carleton explained. ‘You can go through and look at memorabilia and papers, but the person's not there. The only way you could really appreciate and understand Walter was actually seeing him in action.'
And, as Carleton notes, ‘There's a younger generation who never really got to see Walter on the news.'
Here's a small sampling of the artifacts on display.
Carleton has written a book called ‘Conversations with Cronkite,' slated to be published in September. Culled from four years of interviews with the newsman, the book contains material that didn't fit into Cronkite's autobiography, 1996's ‘A Reporter's Life.' Carleton says that while the material — ‘presented in a conversational style with us talking to each other' — is neither sensational nor salacious, it is a bit more candid and unvarnished than the material that made the biography's cut. All proceeds from the book will go toward supporting the Briscoe Center for American History.
‘Cronkite: Eyewitness to a Century'Where: LBJ Library and Museum, 2313 Red River St. When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Jan. 3 (Closed Christmas Day) Cost: Free admission and parking Information: 721-0200, cronkiteexhibit.com