Twenty-four years to the day after he inherited the anchor chair of the CBS Evening News from Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather delivered his final newscast Wednesday night. Reviving a farewell he used briefly in the mid-1980s, Rather solemnly—and perhaps somewhat defiantly, given the ridicule he received when he first adopted it—signed off with the word “Courage.”
As his newscast wound down, Rather, who last year was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, addressed his audience with the following send-off:
"We've shared a lot in the 24 years we've been meeting here each evening, and before I say good night this night, I need to say thank you. Thank you to the thousands of wonderful professionals at CBS News, past and present, with whom it’s been my honor to work over these years. And a deeply felt thank-you to all of you who have let us into your homes night after night. It has been a privilege, and one never taken lightly.
“Not long after I first came to the anchor chair, I briefly signed off using the word ‘courage.’ I want to return to it now in a different way, to a nation still nursing a broken heart for what happened here in 2001, and especially to those who found themselves close to the events of September 11.
“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.”
CBS followed Rather’s final broadcast with Dan Rather: A Reporter Remembers, an hour-long program devoted to his more than 40 years as a newsman, covering everything from hurricanes in his native Texas to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Watergate, the wars in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Kosovo and Iraq, the September 11th terrorist attacks and much more. For all of his achievements, however, Rather leaves the Evening News with his reputation besmirched in the aftermath of the controversy surrounding last fall’s disputed 60 Minutes report about President Bush's National Guard service.
Although Rather, who reportedly received a 10-minute ovation from the staff and family members assembled to share the occasion, is leaving the Evening News, he is not retiring. He will continue to report stories for both the Sunday- and Wednesday-night editions of 60 Minutes.
While CBS retools its evening newscast, Rather will be succeeded temporarily by fellow Texan and longtime CBS colleague Bob Shieffer, who will continue to host CBS’s Face the Nation in addition to his anchor responsibilities.