#RespectYourElders: Dan Rather, 87, is an American journalist and author. His career spans nearly seven decades and he’s interviewed every president since Harry Truman. Rather won countless journalism awards throughout his career, including numerous Emmy Awards and Peabody Awards.
Rather was born in 1931 and grew up in Houston, Texas. His father, a ditchdigger and pipelayer, had insatiable reading habits, which shaped Rather’s interest in journalism.
Rather was the first in his family to attend college, studying journalism at Sam Houston State College. As many reporters do, Rather bounced from job to job learning the ropes. He worked at a local radio station, The Houstonian, the Associated Press and United Press International all before graduating from college. In 1954, Rather enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He was discharged after they discovered he had rheumatic fever as a child. The savvy journalist went back to making a name for himself in Texas.
In 1961, Hurricane Carla ravaged Galveston, Texas. Rather and his crew were the only live television team broadcasting from the city during the storm. He delivered a report while hanging onto a palm tree and the news coverage contributed to mass evacuations of the coast. Thus, the nickname “Hurricane Dan” was born.
Following the storm, CBS hired “Hurricane Dan” as the network’s national news correspondent. Rather covered the John F. Kennedy assassination, spent time as a foreign and war correspondent in countries like Greece, India, China and Vietnam, and also worked as a White House Correspondent during Nixon’s Watergate scandal. If there was news to be found, you could bet Rather would be there.
Rather spent several years as a correspondent for 60 Minutes. In 1981, Walter Cronkite retired as the anchor of CBS’s flagship broadcast, CBS Evening News. CBS hired Rather as the nightly anchor in 1981, a position he held for the next 24 years.
In 2004, Rather reported a series of memos on 60 Minutes which called into question President George W. Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service record. The memos, which were allegedly written by Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, were called out as being inauthentic. While CBS and Rather stood by the accuracy of their reporting, a formal investigation revealed that CBS committed numerous fact-checking errors before running the story. CBS fired several producers and Rather stepped down from CBS a year earlier than he intended.
The former CBS anchor went on to write several books. His book, written with Elliot Kirschner, “What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism” published in September 2019. In the book, Rather reflects on American values, identity and purpose.
“I find myself thinking deeply about what it means to love America, as I surely do.” Rather writes.