What did the late, famed newsman Walter Cronkite and Florida’s favorite Parrothead, Jimmy Buffet, have in common?
Well, it turns out that the answer is uncommon. As in, Uncommon Friends.
As humorously chronicled by Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy in a recent article in the Fort Myers News-Press, the story goes back to 1999 when Murphy served on the Uncommon Friends Foundation board.
The foundation, you may recall from past blog posts, was inspired by the book Fort Myers entrepreneur and philanthropist Jim Newton wrote about his unique relationship with some of the biggest names in history including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and Charles Lindbergh.
The Uncommon Friends Foundation board wanted to create a documentary and decided to contact Cronkite to serve as narrator.
“The word got back to us that Cronkite himself said, ‘If those kooks ever call again, don’t take another call from them. They’re absolutely nuts,'” the storytelling Murphy shared. “And we said, ‘Really? Why did he feel that way? Because he said, ‘There’s no way one guy knew those five people.’
“The message finally got through that this was, in fact, true, and that Jim Newton was personal friends with these people. Well, then he called back, and he said, ‘There’s no way I’m not going to do it.'”
At the reception for the premiere showing held at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, the mayor was introduced to Cronkite, who returned the surprise.
He says, ‘Well, mayor, as long as you’re here, say hello to a friend of mine. So he taps this guy on the shoulder, and turns around and says ‘Say hi to Jimmy Buffett.’ So Jimmy Buffett was there with Walter Cronkite. So they were buddies. They were great buddies. What they had in common, they were both sailors. They both sailed boats. So in the winter time, Cronkite would come down and sail with Jimmy Buffett in the Keys.”
And as Buffett talked about as part of his performance at the 2009 memorial service for Cronkite, he’d return the favor in the summers at Martha’s Vineyard.
Uncommon friends indeed!