AKA Daniel Irvin Rather, Jr.
Birthplace: Wharton, TX
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Former CBS Anchorman
Military service: US Army Reserve
Dan Rather was the anchor of the CBS Evening News from 1981 to 2005. As a child he was a newsboy, hawking copies of the Houston Chronicle on street corners. He started working as a reporter in 1950, writing for Associated Press while he was a college freshman and later reporting for the Chronicle before becoming news director at CBS's Houston affiliate. He joined CBS News in 1962, and was head of the network's Southwest bureau in Dallas when John F. Kennedy was assassinated there.
He was the first reporter to go live with news that the President had been shot, and the first and only reporter allowed to view Abraham Zapruder's home movie of Kennedy's killing in the immediate aftermath of the assassination. The now-famous film was not seen by the public for several years -- instead, CBS broadcast Rather's description of the footage, in which he said Kennedy's head "went forward with considerable violence" after being struck, tacitly suggesting that the President had been shot from behind by lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald. When the footage was eventually released, it showed the opposite -- Kennedy's head snapped violently backward, almost as if he had instead been shot by an unknown gunman in front of the motorcade.
At the time, though, Rather's reports on the assassination impressed then-anchor Walter Cronkite, and with subsequent coverage of the Vietnam and Afghanistan wars and years of work on 60 Minutes, Rather was groomed for the anchor's chair. He took over the CBS Evening News when Cronkite stepped down in 1981, but while the newscast had been top-rated under Cronkite, it was the lowest-rated newscast for most of Rather's long tenure. In 1994, Rather was briefly teamed with co-anchor Connie Chung, but the ratings only declined further. He was the first American reporter to interview Saddam Hussein after Iraq attacked Kuwait in 1990, snagged the first on-camera interview with Bill Cosby after the comedian's son was murdered, and he was the only American anchor to attend Yitzhak Rabin's funeral.
He became famous for his folksy metaphors, some of which were genuine Texas colloquialisms from his youth, while others were apparently improvised by Rather on the air. Covering the razor-close 2000 election, Rather reported that "we don't know whether to wind the watch or to bark at the moon", and said the election was "as hot and tight as a too-small bathing suit on a too-long ride home from the beach".
Early in his career, to better understand America's war on drugs, Rather said he had police "shoot me with heroin so I could do a story about it", and also added that he knew "a fair amount about LSD". Covering the tumultuous 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago, Rather was slugged live on camera during a near-riot. In 1980, he was charged with disorderly conduct after refusing to pay a $12.55 cab fare, and in 1986 he was mugged in New York by a man who, according to Rather, repeatedly asked him, "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" For a short while in 1986, he inexplicably ended each night's newscast with the word, "Courage", but stopped using that tagline when it -- and he -- became the butt of jokes. In a 1987 newscast Rather walked off the set, leaving an empty chair for six minutes, reportedly believing that the broadcast had been preempted by sports coverage.
In an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman just days after September 11, Rather burst into tears twice, apologizing, "I'm a professional. I get paid not to do that." Letterman took his hand and responded, "Yeah, you're a professional, but good Christ, you're a human being."
Rather lost his anchor chair in 2005, in the aftermath of the so-called "memogate" scandal. In a report questioning President George W. Bush's military service, Rather had reported that Bush received special treatment and was not expected to actually fulfill his National Guard commitment. The report relied heavily on a document supplied to CBS News by a retired military man, and while no-one questioned the heart of the story -- that Bush received preferential treatment in the Guard -- the source later admitted that the document had been forged. When Rather left the program in 2005, he again signed off his final newscast with his cryptic call for "Courage", and after leaving CBS he soon resurfaced at an obscure cable channel, HD Network, where he hosted Dan Rather Reports.
Father: Daniel Irvin Rather, Sr. (oil worker, b. 1910, d. 1962 car accident)
Mother: Veda Byrl Page (homemaker, b. 1910, d. 1968 stroke)
Sister: Patricia Ann Rather
Brother: Donald Eugene Rather (teacher)
Wife: Jean Goebel (m. Apr-1957, one daughter, one son)
Daughter: Dawn Robin Rather Murray (b. 1958)
Son: Daniel Martin Rather ("Danjack", b. 1960)
High School: John H. Reagan High School, Houston, TX (1949)
University: BA Journalism, Sam Houston State University (1953)
University: Journalism, Sam Houston State University (1954-55)
University: University of Houston (dropped out)
Law School: South Texas School of Law (dropped out)
The Houston Chronicle
Academy of Achievement (2001)
Committee to Protect Journalists Board of Directors
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Steering Committee
Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame
Mugged New York City (1986)
Wedding: William Cohen and Janet Langhart (1996)
Roast: Bob Schieffer (2004)
Funeral: Tim Russert (2008)
60 Minutes 1975-81
60 Minutes II
48 Hours 1988-
CBS Evening News Anchor (1981-2005)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Reagan (23-Jan-2011) · Himself
Beer for My Horses (8-Aug-2008) · Himself
Why We Fight (2005) · Himself
WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception (17-Jun-2004) · Himself
Rotten Library Page:
Author of books:
The Camera Never Blinks Twice: The Further Adventures of a Television Journalist (1994)
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