Rather, Daniel Irvin ("Dan")

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RATHER, Daniel Irvin ("Dan")

(b. 31 October 1931 in Wharton, Texas), anchor and managing editor of CBS Evening News who covered many of the world's major stories of the 1960s, including the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Rather is the son of Irvin Rather, an oil pipeliner, and Byrl Page. He attributes his passion for news to his father, a "voracious reader" who impulsively subscribed to newspapers from all over the United States. The elder Rather was also, according to his son, "a man of sudden angers who would leap from his chair and cancel whichever paper had offended him.… Out of that cycle, somehow, grew my interest in the news, how it was gathered and reported and in what form it reached our home." Rather attended Sam Houston State Teachers College (now Sam Houston State University), where he received a B.A. in journalism in 1953. While in college, Rather found his first major reporting job with a 250-watt radio station in Huntsville, Texas. For forty cents an hour, he was a jack-of-all-trades, putting together newscasts; doing the play-by-play for local junior high, high school, and college football games; and even answering the phone, repairing the equipment, and mowing the lawn.

After being "sidetracked," in his own words, for a year or so following graduation from college, Rather moved on to part-time writing and reporting assignments for the Houston Chronicle and spent a year as a journalism instructor. In 1954 he joined the news staff of KTRH, a radio station owned by the Chronicle. About KTRH, Rather recalled, "I was doing the one thing I had always visualized myself doing. Not the broadcast part, the reporting, covering City Hall, the courts, the police station. I was learning." He married Jean Goebel, a painter, on 21 April 1957, and they had two children.

In 1960 the twenty-nine-year-old Rather became news director and anchorman of KHOU-TV, the CBS affiliate in Houston. Within a year after his arrival, the station moved from third place to first place in the ratings. When Hurricane Carla struck the Texas Gulf Coast in September 1961, Rather headed a news team that provided unprecedented live coverage of the storm for nearly three days from the offices of the Galveston Weather Bureau. His professional handling of the situation captured the attention of CBS executives in New York who had monitored the reports from Texas.

Rather's subsequent rise through the ranks at CBS was meteoric. In 1962 he was appointed chief of the southern bureau in Dallas, responsible for coverage of news events in the South, Southwest, Mexico, and Central America. During that time he reported on racial conflicts in the South, and the crusade led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Over the next two years Rather covered the civil rights movement, reporting on such stories as the rioting that followed James Meredith's enrollment at the University of Mississippi in 1962, as well as the assassination of Medgar Evers in 1963.

On 22 November 1963 Rather was in Dallas to coordinate CBS's coverage of President John F. Kennedy's visit to the city and to conduct an interview with the former vice president John Nance Garner (who was celebrating his ninety-eighth birthday) for use as a possible filler piece on the evening news. After completing the interview, Rather volunteered to work with the crew assigned to report on the president's motorcade. Stationed at the end of the route, he noticed a police car and what he thought was the president's limousine suddenly breaking away from the rest of the motorcade and speeding off in the wrong direction. He ran to the CBS affiliate's offices and began monitoring Dallas police communications. After hearing a reference to a local hospital, Rather was immediately in touch with the hospital's switchboard operator, a physician, and a Catholic priest, from whom he learned that the president had been shot and was dead. Rather's unofficial report to CBS Radio constituted the first public announcement of Kennedy's assassination. For the next five days he presented numerous live reports and helped to initiate CBS's coverage of the assassination and subsequent events, including the president's funeral. Rather's impressive work was rewarded with an immediate promotion to Washington correspondent, an assignment that required him to report on the new administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In 1964 Rather was given an overseas assignment in London. From there he traveled throughout Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia, covering the Greek and Turkish civil war on Cyprus and Pakistan's invasion of India. In 1965 Rather was sent to Saigon, Vietnam, for a year to cover the American involvement in the military conflict between the north and south Vietnamese. Rather ignored official press briefings that focused on the political aspects of the war and instead reported on actual combat situations. Rather notes: "For the first time … war was coming into our homes. For the first time people could watch actual combat scenes while they ate dinner."

In 1966 Rather was assigned to cover the White House. He stayed on after the 1968 election and through the entire Watergate era, when President Richard M. Nixon was forced to resign from office. His aggressive coverage of Nixon made him a nationally recognized figure and earned him the nickname "the Reporter the White House hates." Rather was transferred from the White House beat to New York City in 1974, shortly after Nixon resigned and Gerald R. Ford took office. Rather became the anchorman for the documentary-style CBS Reports, and was chosen to serve as anchor for the CBS Saturday and Sunday evening newscasts. In 1981 Rather succeeded Walter Cronkite as anchor and managing editor of CBS Evening News, a post he held through the beginning of the twenty-first century. He has also anchored and reported for 48 Hours from the time of its premiere in 1988. His regular contributions to CBS News Radio include Dan Rather Reporting, a weekday news program.

Since 1962, when Rather first joined CBS News, he has handled some of the most challenging assignments in broadcast journalism. Known as an outspoken Democrat, he has sometimes been criticized for inserting his own viewpoints into his reporting. Nevertheless, his day-to-day commitment to substantive, fair, and accurate news reporting and his tough, active style have earned him a position of respect among his peers and the public.

Rather's autobiographies include The Camera Never Blinks: Adventures of a TV Journalist, with Mickey Herskowitz (1977); Memoirs: I Remember, with Peter Wyden (1991); and The Camera Never Blinks Twice: Further Adventures of a Television Journalist, with Mickey Herskowitz (1994). For additional informationabout Rather, see Robert Goldberg and Gerald Jay Goldberg, Anchors: Brokaw, Jennings, Rather, and the Evening News (1990).

Reed Markham