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October 1, 2013

Longtime journalist, Texas native Dan Rather keynotes LSC-PA Lecture Series

— Dan Rather famously said “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a reporter.” Similarly, most Americans would be hard-pressed to remember a time when they didn’t know Rather as the face of television news.

Rather, a Texas native and a journalist for more than 60 years, will appear at Lamar State College-Port Arthur as the Fall 2013 Distinguished Lecture Series keynote speaker on Oct. 22. The event, which is free to the public, will take place in the Carl Parker Multipurpose Center on the LSC-PA campus, starting at 7 p.m.

Rather is known worldwide for his long tenure as anchor of the television programs “60 Minutes” and the “CBS Evening News.” His beginnings, though not as auspicious, certainly gave an indication of the hard-nosed, investigative approach to reporting that would catapult him to national journalistic acclaim.

“I played football, graduated from high school and became the first member of the family to go to college,” Rather said. “At Sam Houston State Teacher's College, I studied journalism under Professor Hugh Cunningham. He got me a job at a local radio station, KSAM, where I was pretty much everything from news reporter to D.J. Perhaps most important, I did play-by-play of local athletic events. The skill of ad-libbing that I developed while calling those games became invaluable later on, both on the radio and TV.”

He continued to pursue his journalism career as an Associated Press reporter in Huntsville, Texas, in 1950, and later was a reporter for United Press, several Texas radio stations, and the Houston Chronicle.  In 1959, he began his television career as a reporter for KTRK-TV, the ABC affiliate in Houston. Rather was subsequently promoted to the director of news for KHOU-TV, the CBS affiliate in Houston.

In early September 1961, Rather reported live from the Galveston Seawall as Hurricane Carla threatened the Texas coastline. During that coverage, Rather improvised a new way of visualizing a hurricane’s size and location on a map so viewers could better understand the vastness of a storm. This innovation so impressed network executives at CBS, that they offered him a job as a CBS News correspondent. Rather refused CBS's first offer but accepted the second one when it came three months later.

On February 28, 1962, Rather left Houston for a six-month trial run in New York City. Rather didn't fit in easily on the East Coast and he was soon made chief of CBS's Southwest bureau in Dallas. In 1963, he was appointed chief of the Southern bureau in New Orleans, responsible for coverage of news events in the South, Southwest, Mexico and Central America. Just a few months later Rather was reporting on the Kennedy assassination.

Rather's distinct and lucid reporting style during the national mourning period following JFK’s assassination and subsequent events brought him to the attention of CBS News management, which rewarded him in 1964 with the network's White House correspondent position.

After serving as a foreign correspondent for CBS in London in 1965 and Vietnam in 1966, he served his second tenure as White House correspondent during the Richard Nixon presidency. In 1970, he drew the assignment as primary anchor for the CBS Sunday Night News.

After President Nixon's resignation in 1974, Rather took the assignment of chief correspondent for the documentary series “CBS Reports.” He later became a correspondent of the long-running Sunday night news show “60 Minutes.” Success there helped Rather pull ahead of longtime correspondent Roger Mudd in line to succeed Walter Cronkite as anchor and Managing Editor of CBS Evening News.

Rather assumed the position upon Cronkite's retirement, making his first broadcast on March 9, 1981 and continuing his anchor position there until 2006. Since then, Rather has worked with Mark Cuban and HDNet, putting on an hour of “Dan Rather Reports” each week, which allows him to return to investigative reporting, his first love.

Rather married, Jean Goebel, in 1957. They have a son and daughter and maintain homes in New York City and Austin. Their daughter, Robin, is an environmentalist and community activist in Austin, while their son, Dan, is an assistant district attorney in the D.A.’s office in Manhattan.

Sam Houston State University renamed its mass communications building after Rather in 1994. The building houses the campus newspaper The Houstonian and KSHU, the student-run radio and television stations. In May 2007, Rather received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Siena College in Loudonville, New York, for his lifetime contributions to journalism.

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