89-Year-Old Dan Rather: From Lauded News Anchor to Lovable Twitter Troll

After 71 years of celebrity status informing the American people, you’d think Dan Rather would be ready for a peaceful retirement, but a quiet retreat for his autumn years isn’t what the journalist is working on these days. After rising to national prominence joining the CBS News team in 1962, he was a trusted voice on the news to millions of Americans until 2006, when he ultimately left CBS. Rather has repeatedly expressed a desire to continue doing what he loves — reporting the news. With that goal in mind, as traditional news media has struggled to maintain relevance, he has become a master of social media. In nearly 16,000 tweets over the past decade, Rather has wittily and often incisively shined a light on darker aspects of American politics and society. 

Dan Rather smiling, seated in an armchair
Dan Rather | Charles Sykes/Getty Images

Where did Dan Rather go to college?

According to Biography, Dan Rather was born in 1931 in Wharton, Texas. Rather was interested in English and journalism from a very young age. He attended Sam Houston’s Teacher’s College. Funding this education by working with the Associated Press and at the college radio station, he carried significant journalism experience before graduating with a degree in journalism in 1953. He spent the next decade in local news in Texas until CBS News noticed him from his reporting on hurricane Carla in 1961.

In 1962, Rather began a 6-month trial contract with CBS in New York, before being transferred back to Texas as chief of CBS’ Southwest bureau. In this role, he would provide historic coverage of news from the civil rights movement, JFK assassination, and the Watergate scandal. He would continue to rise in prominence over the decades, eventually joining the correspondents of 60 Minutes and CBS Evening News. Over the course of 44 years, he was one of the most trusted news reporters in the country. His straightforward, rational speaking style engendered trust from the American people, and his deep-dive reporting on controversial issues kept viewers returning to his broadcast evening after evening.

How did Dan Rather sign off?

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In 2004, this very style of deep-dive reporting would begin a scandal that would ultimately lead to Rather’s departure from CBS. On September 8th, Rather reported on 60 Minutes that CBS had obtained a series of authenticated memos that proved that then-President George W. Bush had gone AWOL during his service in Vietnam, and had covered up blemishes on his military record. Though Rather claims the legitimacy of his sources and documents to this day, the administration of the sitting President opposed the story viciously, and CBS eventually withdrew the story.

In the aftermath of the scandal, four separate producers working on the story were asked to resign. Rather was told he was being pulled from TV and offered a desk job with the news management team. Rather said of the scandal in a 2015 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “They overwhelmed CBS — they overwhelmed us who reported it — by making the focus not on the hard-rock truth of the story, but rather the process by which we arrived at that truth.”

Rather’s final broadcast on CBS was March 9th, 2005. An entire generation had known no one but rather as the face of CBS Evening News. In his farewell speech he returned to a sign-off he used from his youth-the word “courage” and according to the Academy of Arts and Television said in a now-famous speech, “To our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in dangerous places. To those who have endured the tsunami, and to all who have suffered natural disasters and who must now find the will to rebuild. To the oppressed, and to those whose lot it is to struggle in financial hardship or in failing health. To my fellow journalists in places where reporting the truth means risking all. And to each of you. Courage.”

Dan Rather has a hilarious Twitter

For a journalist who cut his teeth in divisive times such as the Nixon Impeachment or civil rights movement, Courage ranks highly in personal values. Rather has long believed in the importance of freedom of the press, and has braved much to report the truth. From early in his career, events like the desegregation of schools and wartime coverage taught him to never yield to intimidation at the expense of truth. Rather did not stop reporting the truth after leaving CBS. Getting involved in various online news publications and social media Rather would form News and Guts Media, continuing his theme around the word courage.

Rather became an avid poster on Facebook and Twitter, gaining millions of followers commenting on everything from the current political climate to musings about his childhood. While Rather’s tendency to be witty and more verbose than most on social media was endearing to the public, his social media presence would change after the election of former President Donald Trump in 2016. Fiercely concerned about attacks on a free press, Rather was direct in his political commentary of the self-styled “Twitter President.”  Throughout Trump’s term, Rather would continue posting scathing criticisms with enough sass and wit that it gained him a significant following.