Cronkite Memorial Celebration Renews Memories of Famed Journalist’s Footprints in Austin

September 11, 2009

Shortly after Walter Cronkite’s death back in mid-July, Discovery Channel’s Sunday night marathon epic “Cronkite Remembers” was a bountiful feast for history buffs–powerful enough to keep even early-to-bed viewers glued until midnight. The show’s  melding  of awesome newsreel footage of the legendary newsman’s career over five decades with his surprisingly candid commentary produced a gripping experience.

Now, this week’s  memorial service at Lincoln Center in NewYork stirs a stream of memories of the former U.T. dropout through longtime friend Neal Spelce, who has known him since 1960, when Neal was with CBS-TV in New York. Here is some of his reminiscense about Cronkite’s Austin footprints:

“He (Walter) left UT before getting a degree because he hungered to roll up his sleeves and begin his career as a reporter. His early departure from the Forty Acres did not diminish his close ties to UT. His narration of the ‘We’re Texas’ TV spots was probably the most visible of his contributions. But for years, he narrated the filmed biographies of those selected each year as Distingished Alumnus of the University of Texas.

“In 1997, I had the pleasure of escorting him to the campus on one of his visits here, He wanted to look at the presses where The Daily Texan was printed, He was greeted like a rock star by the young students, although very few, if any, saw him on the CBS Evening News before he retired.

“The late Lowell Ledbemann hosted a party for Walter and (wife) Betsy on their 60th wedding anniversary. And Liz Carpenter was another close friend of Walter’s.

“He was famous for sailing on the boat he kept at Cape Code.  He also  liked   Lake Travis– so much so that he asked me to check on a possible lake home he might buy at Lakeway. I sent him a half-dozen or so waterfront options, but he didn’t buy a home here. In fact, when he looked at the  info I sent him, he said ‘I can’t afford these. You must have my salary confused with Dan Rather’s!’  ”

Thanks for the warm memories, Neal.

–Julian Read

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