Former President Bill Clinton remembered Walter Cronkite as “a great citizen and a profoundly good human being” during a memorial service Wednesday for the legendary newsman.
Clinton saluted Cronkite for “an inquiring mind and a caring heart and a careful devotion to the facts.”
After watching Cronkite as a youngster, Clinton grew to be friends with him in adulthood, “and I just ended up being crazy about the guy.”
Others scheduled to appear included former Cronkite colleagues at CBS News, musicians Wynton Marsalis and Mickey Hart, and President Barack Obama.
Jimmy Buffett sang his classic “Son of a Son of a Sailor” for his sailing buddy Cronkite.
But before that, he had a warm recollection of seeking some advice for a mutual friend, the late “60 Minutes” correspondent Ed Bradley.
After a sail, “the sun was down, the rum was out, and I said, ‘Walter, Ed called me and he’s thinking about wearing an earring on ‘60 Minutes.’”
Buffett said Cronkite responded: “It doesn’t matter if he wears an earring, as long as it’s a good story.” Then Cronkite added impishly: “If I was going to wear an earring on ‘60 Minutes,’ I’d wear one of those big, long dangly ones.”
Cronkite, who died July 17 at 92, anchored “The CBS Evening News” from 1962 until 1981. He came to be known as “the most trusted man in America.”
Former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw called him “a seminal force in the transformation of this country.”
Brokaw, who grew up in South Dakota, said, “Walter Cronkite and all those early (TV news) pioneers lifted a lamp and showed us the wider world and allowed us to understand it more clearly and coherently.”
Katie Couric, who now sits at the “CBS Evening News” anchor desk, noted that lesser men are sometimes idealized at their passing.
“But this passing has required no selective recollections or hyperbole,” Couric said. “It’s been a pure joy to celebrate and remember Walter Cronkite for the way he really was.
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who in 1969 made his historic Apollo 11 moonwalk with Neil Armstrong, spoke of Cronkite’s passionate interest in covering the U.S. space program. He praised Cronkite’s “belief in science, his dedication to the story, and his commanding presence that made every step in space exciting for Americans of every age.”
Among those attending the service, at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center, were former CBS anchor Dan Rather; ABC’s Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters and Bob Woodruff; and NBC’s Brian Williams.
AP Television Writer Frazier Moore contributed to this story.
CBS is a division of CBS Corp.
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