You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, May 15, 2012 : 7:59 a.m.

Things you may not know about Dan Rather, appearing Monday (for free) in Ann Arbor

By Jenn McKee

Longtime television journalist Dan Rather is coming to the Michigan Theater on Monday—not to break a story, but to tell his own.

Rather's new memoir, "Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News," revisits the major stories Rather covered during the course of his 60-year career; thoroughly explores the controversy surrounding his 60 Minutes II story about George W. Bush's Texas Air National Guard service record in 2004 (which led to Rather leaving CBS News); and includes Rather's thoughts on the present state, and future, of journalism.

Rather will discuss his memoir, and sign copies of his books, at Monday's free event, which is hosted by the Ann Arbor District Library. In the meantime, you might want to brush up on your knowledge of the seasoned, loved-and-loathed former anchorman.

Childhood: Born October 31, 1931 in Wharton County, Texas. Rather grew up in a blue collar Houston neighborhood called Heights Annex and was the child of a waitress mother and a ditch-digger father—avid readers, both.

College: Rather attended Houston State Teachers College (now Sam Houston University), where he struggled to pay his way; earned a degree in journalism; and edited the school newspaper, The Houstonian.

Surprising early career offshoot: While in college in Huntsville, Rather provided radio coverage of his college’s football team, as well as loal junior high and high school games. He spent 4 years as the play-by-play announcer for the University of Houston football team, and in 1959, Rather provided play-by-play for the a triple A baseball team called the Houston Buffs.

Military service: In 1954, Rather enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, but was soon discharged because he’d had rheumatic fever as a child.

Married: In 1957, Rather married his wife, Jean, with whom he has two children: daughter Robin, an environmentalist and community activist in Austin; and Dan, an assistant district attorney in New York City.

Breakthrough moment: Rather reportedly tied himself to a tree while covering Hurricane Carla in Galveston, Texas, in 1961. The incident resulted in Rather’s nickname, "Hurricane Dan," and a job with CBS News in 1962.

Most personally meaningful story he covered: The coverage of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement. “It changed me as a person, and it changed me as a pro,” he recently told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America.


Dan Rather

  • What: Longtime television journalist Dan Rather will talk about his career and his new memoir (“Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News”) in this talk and book-signing, hosted by the Ann Arbor District Library.
  • Where: Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St.
  • When: 7 p.m. Monday, May 21.
  • How much: Free; no tickets required. More information: and
Dark distinction: Rather was the first network television journalist to report President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Soviet invasion of Afghanistan: Rather memorably wore native garb while reporting from Afghanistan in 1980, and as he writes in “Rather Outspoken,” “This was the birth of (the nickname) ‘Gunga Dan,’ and I’ve endured a fair share of ribbing about it ever since. The clothes were, however, absolutely necessary for the journey.” At that time, Rather caught the attention of Congressman Charlie Wilson, whose efforts led to the largest-ever CIA covert operation in supplying aid and advanced arms to the mujahideen - a story told in the Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts movie, “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

CBS Evening News: Taking the reins from Walter Cronkite, Rather anchored the CBS Evening News from March 9, 1981 to March 9, 2005. Cronkite had wrapped up his nightly broadcast by saying “And that’s the way it is”; Rather’s first attempt at a sign-off, “Courage,” was widely mocked, so he later settled on “That’s part of our world tonight.”

Folksy Ratherisms: Part of the Texas-bred CBS anchor’s on-air persona derived from his regular use of colorful, folksy, sometimes-odd expressions, like: "His chances are slim to none right now, and if he doesn't carry Florida, Slim will have left town,” and, "If a frog had side pockets, he'd carry a hand gun."

Odd, Rather-centric event that became part of the cultural lexicon: On Oct. 4, 1986, as Rather was walking to his Manhattan apartment, he was attacked from behind by a man who demanded to know, "Kenneth, what is the frequency?", while a second assailant also chased and beat him. The bizarre incident inspired songs by Game Theory and R.E.M., and became slang for a confused person.

Controversy: Rather’s long career at CBS ended when the authenticity of documents—provided by George W. Bush’s former Texas Air National Guard commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian—used in his "60 Minutes II” report about Bush’s supposedly spotty service record came into question in 2004. Rather defiantly tells his version of events, from inside the controversy, in great detail “Rather Outspoken,” but at the time, he announced on the air, "If I knew then what I know now, I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question."

Afterlife: In 2006, Rather founded the company News and Guts and became anchor and managing editor of "Dan Rather Reports" on Mark Cuban's HDNet.

Lawsuit: In 2007, Rather filed a $70 million lawsuit against his former bosses, claiming they made him a scapegoat in the Killian debacle. In the end, the case was dismissed.

No regrets: In that same "Good Morning America" interview, Rather said, “My attitude has gotten, in recent years, that sometimes things in journalism go badly for the correspondent. But it’s important not to get baffled, not to be afraid, and to never quit. I have a passion for covering news. I love covering news. But particularly when you do investigative stories, not everything is going to go well.”

Jenn McKee is the entertainment digital journalist for Reach her at or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.


Jim Osborn

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 10:29 p.m.

Yes, I agree that it is "great having national figures, whether on the right, left, or somewhere in between, speak in Ann Arbor" I'll enjoy hearing Dan Rather try to redeem himself. But it is sad to call me a "right wing crazy" to criticize Mr. Rather and CBS News for reporting as true, a false letter detrimental about President Bush that was dated as have been written in the early 1970s, in an attempt to influence the 2004 presidential election. Several days later, the font style was proved to be as one only used from MS Word, not a military typewriter, and the letter then was admitted by CBS News to be a hoax. Three years later, on Larry King Live, Dan Rather said, "Nobody has proved that they were fraudulent, much less a forgery." I would hope that anyone, whether left wing, right wing, middle of road, would want unbiased news and not plain old lies. This was not a case of slanting the news by selective coverage, only reporting some facts, but truthful ones at that. This was a much worse level, reporting a lie as if it were the truth, and Dan Rather still unrepentant. He is only sorry that he was caught and lost his job and reputation.

Honest Abe

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 7:22 p.m.

Ahh, good ole Dan Rather. The guy who decided to "write" the news instead of reporting it. He should not have made up bunk stuff about our President at the time.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 9:27 p.m.

no different then faux news.

Top Cat

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 4:55 p.m.

Dan is from the Katie Couric school of serious and professional journalism. He was not in the same league as Walter Cronkite. Now he is out on tour trying to salvage some shread of his reputation.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

Rather was always better as a field reporter than behind a desk. I find it kind of sad that right-wing crazies eviscerate him for not properly verifying false documents about Bush in what was probably a true story and yet ignore that Bush himself used false documents to justify the invasion of Iraq. In any event, it's great having national figures, whether on the right, left, or somewhere in between, speak in Ann Arbor. Listening to someone that has lived through monumentous events in history is rarely a waste of time.

Jim Osborn

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

saying that is is "over the hill" is very unfair. After all, many folks who have had an interesting career or story to tell are good to hear. I fault Dan Rather for his slanting of the news, his cap stone being the false letter about George W. Bush. Other times is is lying by omission, only telling half of the story to slant the news, but pretending to be objective. I stopped watching CBS News a long time ago. I do watch 60 Minutes, bias and all, though.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

A devote partisan Newsman(?) who report stories as he saw them even if the evidence was lacking or made up! Good Night from Washington!

Michigan Man

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

What an utter waste of time and brain cells for those who will attend this event. I would rather have a botched root canal as compared to spending one nanosecond with this over the hill, former newsman. My free advice to, stop reporting on the Rather non-event.