Born in Missouri but raised mainly in Texas, Walter Cronkite worked as a UPI reporter in Europe during WWII. He then moved into TV journalism eventually becoming anchor of CBS news in 1962 and working in that capacity until 1981. In the course of that time, he covered major events such as the space program, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the Vietnam War, becoming in the process what was often called “the most trusted man in America.” But he became increasingly part of the news and not just its disseminator—and was not, historian Douglas Brinkly points out, always the loveable “Uncle Walter”—especially in his often contentious dealings with colleagues, notably his successor, Dan Rather. Brinkley’s talk will examine the private man behind the popular public image.
A graduate of the Ohio State University, Douglas Brinkley earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Georgetown University in Diplomatic History. He has taught at Princeton University, the U.S. Naval Academy, Hoftsra University, the University of New Orleans, Tulane University, and (currently) Rice University. While at the University of New Orleans, he worked closely with his mentor, the pre-eminent military historian Stephen Ambrose, whom he succeeded for five years as director of that University’s Eisenhower Center. Aside from his teaching positions, he has served as a history commentator for CBS News and as a contributor to Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone. Among the more than 25 books that he has either written, co-written or edited are biographies of major twentieth-century figures Henry Ford, James Forrestal, Dean Acheson, Jimmy Carter, John Kerry, and Gerald Ford, as well as Civil Rights legend Rosa Parks, about whom he delivered a Great Lives lecture in 2011. His most recent work, a biography of Walter Cronkite, was described by Doris Kearns Goodwin as “irresistibly told, beautifully written, and deeply researched.” She further commented that Brinkley “has produced one trustworthy biography after another, each one commanding widespread respect and admiration. And this is one of the very best.”