Dan Rather

Dan Rather

CBS White House correspondent

Dan Rather was born in Wharton, Texas, and grew up in a working class neighborhood of Houston. His father worked as an oil pipeliner. Neither of his parents had been to college and his father had never finished high school, but his mother was determined to see Dan graduate and go on to college.

Both parents were avid readers, and his father in particular had a keen interest in current events. From an early age Dan Rather planned to become a newspaper man. He entered Sam Houston State College in Huntsville, Texas with the hope of winning a football scholarship. His never achieved the gridiron glory he dreamed of, but he made important progress toward a career in journalism, editing the college paper and working part time at a small radio station. While still in college he worked as a reporter for Associated Press and United Press International.

After graduation, he was hired by The Houston Chronicle and its affiliated radio station, KTRH. He became news director of KTRH in 1956 and a reporter for KTRK-TV Houston in 1959. By 1961 he was news director for KHOU-TV, the CBS affiliate in Houston. His coverage of Hurricane Carla brought him to the attention of network executives and he became a network correspondent. As the CBS correspondent in Dallas during the assassination of President Kennedy, his grave but steady demeanor helped to reassure a nation in crisis, and his thorough professionalism won him a national reputation.

He was promoted to the CBS national news desk in 1964. In the 1960s and '70s he became one of the most recognizable figures in the national news media, with his solid coverage of the major stories of that tumultuous era, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. In 1975 he earned a seat at the top news show, 60 Minutes, but gave it up in 1981 to replace Walter Cronkite as anchor of the CBS Evening News, the top job in American broadcast journalism. In 1988 he also began hosting the CBS news show, 48 Hours.

He earned the title of "the hardest working man in broadcast journalism," holding down the top job at three national news programs simultaneously: CBS Evening News, 48 Hours and 60 Minutes II. At the same time, he was writing a nationally syndicated newspaper column and recording a radio program, Dan Rather Reporting, heard on more than 300 radio stations across the country. On the suspenseful election night of 2000, he stayed on the air from 6:00 PM Tuesday evening to 10:00 AM Wednesday morning. Following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, he was on the air for 53 hours and 35 minutes in less than four days. In 1991 and again in 2003, he was able to secure exclusive interviews with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein on the eve of war with the United States. In 2004, he was the first reporter to break the story of the torture of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison. He has received numerous Emmy Awards for his broadcast journalism work, as well as the coveted Peabody Award.

Professional honors and success notwithstanding, Rather was long the target of intense criticism by conservatives who alleged a liberal bias in his work. This conflict came to a head during the 2004 presidential election campaign. Rather questioned President George W. Bush's service record in the Texas Air National Guard at the time of the Vietnam War, citing newly acquired documents. The authenticity of this evidence was called into question and Rather eventually retracted the story, but public calls for his resignation continued. Dan Rather retired from the CBS Evening News in 2005, after 24 years as anchor, the longest tenure of any network news host. He continued to appear on 60 Minutes before leaving the network altogether in 2006. The following year, he filed a $70 million lawsuit against CBS and its parent company for alleged damage to his reputation, but his case was dismissed by a New York State appeals court. Today, Dan Rather is the host of Dan Rather Reports, an hour-long weekly program on HDNet, a high-definition cable television network, and is an outspoken guest on numerous cable news programs. He and his wife Jean make their home in New York City; they have two grown children.

  • Photo obtained from: http://www.nndb.com
  • Biography obtained from: http://www.achievement.org

Dan Rather
Landon Lecture
Nov. 16, 1972