The Cronkite You Never Knew: Race Car Driver

With the world mourning the death of the “most respected man in America,” Walter Cronkite, most media outlets have focused on his contributions to the nation, its politics, and even the media itself. There’s no denying the impact of the indelible images of Cronkite telling the nation about man walking on the moon or JFK’s assassination; they are forever burned in the consciousness of America.

Walter Cronkite Race Driver Volvo PV444

And while Cronkite is most definitely more than worthy of emulation as a newsman and statesman and pillar of integrity in an increasingly cynical world, we’d be happy just following in his steps as an endurance racing driver and lover of motorsports.

Thanks to AUTOBLOG, we’re now even more in awe of Cronkite’s awesomeness after learning of his days behind the wheel:

Although Cronkite was primarily known for his coverage of the JFK assassination, moon landing and the Vietnam war, he also enjoyed success in endurance racing with teammate and Volvo of Long Island dealer Art Riley.

When Riley died earlier this year at 93, his obit briefly mentions Cronkite’s involvement with the team and its successes behind the wheel of a Volvo PV444. The team campaigned and won races at Lime Rock’s “Little LeMans” in 1957, ‘58 and ‘61. Cronkite was the only finisher in a five-car team one year, taking a B-division win and placing third overall. The two also teamed up to compete in the Trans-Canada rally.

That, friends, is a real man’s man. We’ve seen a little backlash about Cronkite bubbling up from the outer fringes of the internet; some of the more closed-minded rabble in the country seems to dislike Cronkite for speaking his mind about things and being steadfast in his convictions. While we were unaware that these were considered negative character traits, surely one thing we can all agree on is that it takes brass ones to race a Volvo across Canada in the 1950s.

In a combination of profession and passion that would have made Robert Frost proud*, Cronkite got behind the wheel of an Austin-Healey and in pits at the Monte Carlo for a special CBS News report about the thrills of sports car racing. “Why do they race?,” he asks. Walter, you already knew the answer:


*My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sakes. 

 -Robert Frost, “Two Tramps In Mud Time”