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|Also Known As:||Daniel Irvin Rather Jr.||Died:|
|Born:||October 31, 1931||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Wharton, Texas, USA||Profession:||news anchor, correspondent, editor, print journalist, teaching instructor|
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A modest Texan with a hard-headed reporting style, Dan Rather led a prolific career in journalism that spanned more than half a century. Though he never saw a television set until the age of 18, Rather went on to become one of the leading television journalists in history, reporting on groundbreaking stories - from the assassination of President Kennedy to the Vietnam War. Serving as anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News" (CBS, 1962- ) for 24 years, Rather was named one of the "Big Three" - alongside peers Peter Jennings (ABC) and Tom Brokaw (NBC) - of network news broadcasting. Though he received criticism for his direct reporting style, Rather's down-home Southern charm made him a celebrated journalist for much of his career. Known for his folksy "Ratherisms," his Texas upbringing made its mark on his newscasts; he once famously described President Clinton's re-election as being "as secure as a double knot tied in wet rawhide." The recipient of a Peabody Award as well as numerous Emmy Awards, Rather was revered as one of the greatest American broadcast journalists of the last 50 years - and despite a questionable departure from CBS amidst allegations of political mudslinging and...
A modest Texan with a hard-headed reporting style, Dan Rather led a prolific career in journalism that spanned more than half a century. Though he never saw a television set until the age of 18, Rather went on to become one of the leading television journalists in history, reporting on groundbreaking stories - from the assassination of President Kennedy to the Vietnam War. Serving as anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News" (CBS, 1962- ) for 24 years, Rather was named one of the "Big Three" - alongside peers Peter Jennings (ABC) and Tom Brokaw (NBC) - of network news broadcasting. Though he received criticism for his direct reporting style, Rather's down-home Southern charm made him a celebrated journalist for much of his career. Known for his folksy "Ratherisms," his Texas upbringing made its mark on his newscasts; he once famously described President Clinton's re-election as being "as secure as a double knot tied in wet rawhide." The recipient of a Peabody Award as well as numerous Emmy Awards, Rather was revered as one of the greatest American broadcast journalists of the last 50 years - and despite a questionable departure from CBS amidst allegations of political mudslinging and accusations from the right of Rather's leftist-leaning ways - the anchorman went on to further success as host of "Dan Rather Reports," (2006- ) - his reputation as a reputable newsman firmly intact.
Born Daniel Irvin Rather, Jr. on Oct. 31, 1931 in Wharton, TX to parents Daniel Rather, Sr. and Byrl Veda Page, Rather grew up in the Heights Annex area of Houston where his father was an oil pipeline worker. Interested in the news from a young age, Rather started his own paper as a child and worked as a newsboy selling The Houston Chronicle. Following in his father's footsteps, Rather (called "Rags" as a kid) worked the oilfields as a teenager while attending John H. Reagan High School. Following his childhood dream of being a byline reporter for The Chronicle, he went on to study journalism at Sam Houston State Teachers College where he served as editor of the college newspaper, The Houstonian. Rather began his career as a journalist in 1950, serving as an Associated Press reporter in Huntsville, TX. He went on to report for United Press International, and completed his bachelor's degree in journalism in 1953. After briefly attending the South Texas College of Law, Rather landed a job at The Houston Chronicle in 1954. Moving into a new era of journalism, he went on to land his first television reporting job in 1959 at KTRK-TV in Houston. Showing an aptitude for on-air reporting, he was later promoted to the director of news for Houston's CBS affiliate, KHOU-TV.
Rather caught his big break in 1961 as Hurricane Carla whipped the Texas coastline, threatening to move inland. Reporting live for KHOU-TV from Galveston as the heavy rains hit the area, Rather came on the air with a radar picture from the local weather bureau - something that was rarely done at the time. He quickly caught the eye of CBS network executives who were impressed enough with his reporting, that he was soon made chief of the network's Southwest bureau in Dallas, where he was responsible for covering 23 states, as well as Mexico and Central America. Actively covering the civil rights movement in the South, Rather took his news crew into the heart of the protests to capture the story. When tragedy struck the nation on Nov. 22, 1963, Rather went live from the scene of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas. Making CBS one of the first networks on the scene, Rather was the first to report that Kennedy had been shot after hearing the news from a priest at a local hospital. After relaying the story to CBS, news anchor Walter Cronkite made the famous on-air announcement. Quickly proving that he was a star reporter on the rise, CBS promoted Rather to the prestigious position of White House correspondent in 1964.
Passionate about his work, Rather went on to make his mark on the field of journalism over the next few decades. Transferring to London, Rather became chief of CBS' London bureau. At his own request, he went to Vietnam in 1965 to cover the war, relieving fellow journalist Morley Safer. Though the job was initially set for only a few months, Rather spent the better part of a year in the war-torn country, reporting live from the front lines and making CBS the leader of the pack in Vietnam coverage. Returning to his position as White House correspondent during the Nixon administration, Rather followed the Watergate investigation and subsequent impeachment proceedings intently. A brazen and daring reporter, Rather caused a stir in 1974 during a press conference with President Nixon. While asking the President a question, Nixon turned the focus back around to Rather by asking "Are you running for something?" to which Rather replied candidly, "No, sir, Mr. President. Are you?" Angered by his conduct, a number of CBS affiliates requested Rather's resignation, though no action was taken. He went on to co-author his first book, The Palace Guard, about the Watergate scandal later that year. It quickly became a best-seller. In 1977, he followed his freshman effort with the book, The Camera Never Blinks.
Rather went on to be named chief correspondent for "CBS News Special Reports." Slipping into disguise in 1980, Rather went to the front lines in Afghanistan to report on the Soviet invasion - an action that earned him the nickname, "Gunga Dan." Rather also worked as a correspondent for CBS's Sunday night news program, "60 Minutes" (CBS, 1968- ). Reaching the top of his game by 1980, Rather received an offer from ABC News to do "Word News Tonight" (1965- ). Countering the offer, CBS proposed a co-anchoring position alongside Roger Mudd. When the proposal fell through, Rather was asked to step in for long-time "CBS Evening New" anchor Walter Cronkite upon his retirement in 1981. Rather made his first broadcast as anchor on March 9, 1981, exhibiting a much different style of reporting than Cronkite. With a modest Texan style, Rather became known for his wrap-up phrase, "That's part of our world tonight." Along with Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings, Rather became one of network news' "Big Three" throughout the eighties and beyond.
Becoming a headline himself in 1986, Rather was mugged and badly beaten on Park Avenue in New York by a deranged man who kept repeating the phrase, "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" - a line which later inspired songs by the rock bands Game Theory and, more famously, R.E.M. Though his attacker was not captured at the time, Rather later identified the man after he was arrested for murdering an NBC stagehand in 1994. The new anchor appeared in the headlines again a year later; this time for angrily walking off the "Evening News" set after the network decided to let their coverage of the U.S. Open cut into the news broadcast. When the tournament ended sooner than expected, Rather was nowhere to be found and the network was left with six minutes of dead air - a lifetime for live TV. Though Rather issued an apologetic statement, he received criticism for the incident, including from his predecessor Cronkite. When Rather pressed then-vice president George H.W. Bush about his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair in an interview the following year, Bush came back at Rather by asking him if he wanted to be judged for the U.S. Open incident.
Rather continued to move forward with his career, staying at the top of his game despite the occasional criticism. In 1988, he began hosting the popular investigative news show, "48 Hours" (CBS, 1988- ). In 1990, he became the first American journalist to land an interview with Saddam Hussein after the invasion of Kuwait. Sharing his anchor duties for a brief period from 1993-95, Rather co-anchored the "Evening News" with former CBS Washington correspondent, Connie Chung. When Chung fell out of favor with viewers, Rather continued hosting the program on his own. He went on to land the first exclusive interview with President Bill Clinton in 1998 after the Monica Lewinsky scandal and his resulting impeachment by the House.
Showing a more personal side on "The Late Show with David Letterman" (CBS, 1993- ) in 2001, Rather was moved to tears twice during a discussion of the 9/11 attacks which had occurred only a few days prior. The interview became the watercooler topic du jour, as it was a rare moment indeed, watching the normally calm, controlled news anchor break down. Rather went on to land yet another interview with Sadam Hussein in February of 2003; just prior to the United States' declaration of war. His one-on-one exclusive with the Iraqi dictator was the first American interview Hussein had agreed to since 1991. During the interview, Hussein invited Rather to be the moderator at a debate between himself and President Bush - a debate which never occurred.
By 2004, however, Rather's prestigious career hit was hitting a snag. While covering a story for "60 Minutes" which alleged that President Bush had been found unfit for flight status after failing to submit to a physical examination during his years in the Texas Air National Guard, the authenticity of the documents the story was based on were questioned. Amidst accusations from right-wing conservatives, Rather continued to defend the story after its broadcast. An independent panel later investigated the conduct of CBS News and concluded that the network had not followed standard protocol in their reporting of the story. CBS responded to the incident - dubbed "Rathergate" - by firing the story producer and asking three other producers involved in the story to resign. Though Rather was not asked to step down, the incident struck a major blow to his career. On March 9, 2005, after 24 years as anchor of the "CBS Evening News" - the longest-running news anchor career in American television history - Rather stepped down from his news desk. Though he remained working for CBS and continued to report for "60 Minutes," Rather's days at the network were numbered. When his contract was not renewed in June 2006, Rather left CBS News after 44 years at the network. Down but never out, he went on to serve as a producer at HDNet and host - without network interference - the one-hour news show, "Dan Rather Reports," (2006- ).
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"Of course the network news business is changing. Things will never be as they were. I still think CBS does the best, but the competition is very, very strong....As for me personally, I hope to stay with CBS forever, but if that's not the way it turns out, I'll always be doing news somewhere. It's in my bones and I love it every day."--Dan Rather quoted by Larry King in USA TODAY, October 14, 1991)
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