As a boy growing up in Houston, one of Walter Cronkite's jobs was as bicycle delivery boy for a drugstore.
In an interview with Playboy magazine in 1973, he talked about that job playing a part in his understanding of the terrible prejudice in the city at the time:
was the drugstore delivery boy; I did bicycle deliveries and we had a
couple of blacks who used motorcycles for more distant orders. They
were both great guys. One of them was a particularly close friend of
mine–as close as you could be in the environment of Houston at that
time. We weren't about to go out together anywhere, but we were good
friends at the drugstore and sat out back and pitched pennies and shot
crap and a few things like that. ….
“As I say, he was
a very nice guy, came from a nice family. His mother was a washerwoman,
his father was a yardman, but they had great dignity. He had three or
four brothers and sisters. Anyway, one night, as he parked his
motorcycle and was walking between two houses to deliver some ice cream
to the back door, he was shot by one of the occupants–the
one who hadn't ordered the ice cream. He was listed as a Peeping Tom
and the murder was considered justified. Incredible……”
The young Cronkite didn't just use his bicycle for work, he also used it for pleasure. In his autobiography “A Reporter's Life,” Cronkite wrote about how he spent his free time.
The most trusted man in America died Friday at his home in New York. He was 92. Maybe his bicycling experiences weren't responsible for making him such a great communicator, but the bike did get him out of the house and into the world.
There will never be another newsman like him.