Legendary newsman Walter Cronkite, who famously broke the news of the Kennedy assassination to the American public and helped turn the tide of public opinion against the Vietnam War, signed off from his post as anchorman for CBS Evening News for the final time 40 years ago tonight.
Cronkite had been in the anchor position for 19 years and was considered by many to be "the most trusted man in America" in an era where there were only three major networks and no 24-hour news channels. He humbly shrugged off the importance of his position by saying "The person who sits here is but the most conspicuous member of a superb team of journalists, writers, reporters, editors, producers, and none of that will change."
Cronkite also assured nervous viewers who had grown accustomed to his comforting presence that he would not be leaving the network entirely, and that he would still be back for special reports and documentaries. "Old anchormen, you see, don't fade away. They just keep coming back for more."
Then he delivered his famous tagline for the last time. "And that's the way it is. Friday, March 6, 1981. I'll be away on assignment and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years. Good night."
Rather's tenure would last more than a "few years." In fact, his 24-year run eclipsed even Cronkite's duration, but not his legacy.
Andy Hunsaker has a head full of sitcom gags and nerd-genre lore, and can be followed @AndyHunsaker if you're into that sort of thing.