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Walter Cronkite's farewell to San Francisco

The anchorman of the “CBS Evening News” from 1962 to 1981 did his last interview before a Commonwealth Club audience on Feb. 27, 2004 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.

A link to the 58-minute interview is not on the club’s Web site (or at least we couldn’t find it), but KGO 810 host Ray Taliaferro, who conducted the interview, replayed it early Monday morning. Here are the links (part 1 and part 2), which will disappear in about a week. KGO does not keep replays of its broadcasts up for more than a week. (Hint, hint, download it now if you’re a history buff.)

Taliaferro said that this was Cronkite’s last interview. (Update: Two readers have told us that Cronkite was interviewed after this, by CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Feb. 26, 2007 in Universal City, and Nov. 6, 2006 at the University of the Pacific in Stockton). Taliaferro said that Cronkite was asked by the Commonwealth Club to give a speech, but he didn’t want to do that. Instead, he wanted to be interviewed. So Taliaferro, a club board member, was asked to do the interview with little advance notice. (The Chronicle appears to have missed this milestone, reporting it almost a week later on March 2, 2004.)

Cronkite was as sharp as a tack in this interview, though he admitted he was almost deaf. But when he was questioned about a manned mission to Mars, he explained that we had to colonize the moon first, and use it as base for Mars missions.

He also talked about his famous commentary in 1968 against the Vietnam War following the Tet Offensive. He said it wasn’t his idea but rather was convinced by his boss to editorialize about the war in an attempt to bring American together. He said he didn’t find out until later that Lyndon Johnson felt that if he had lost Cronkite, he had lost middle America.

But perhaps the most provocative soundbite from this interview was his endorsement of gay marriage, which came at the very end:

(Photo credit: Bill Adams)

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