Dan Rather’s reflective autobiography, I REMEMBER, which meanders about its twenty-year time frame with digressions on Bonnie and Clyde, CASABLANCA, and Sally Rand, draws on every frontier cliche since covered wagons crossed the Mississippi. The author, filled with pride in his accomplishments, espouses the workaday values of a boy brought up on plenty of discipline and fundamentalist faith, few frills beyond a Saturday movie or a swim with pals, and a generous helping of determination. Nicknamed Rags, a family tradition for three generations, he grew up in the Heights Annex, a gritty, undistinguished working-class community which boasts such native sons as A.J. Foyt, Bobby Waltrip, and Red Adair, capper of runaway oil wells. Among the usual trials of growing up and wising up was Rather’s protracted bout with rheumatic fever, which kept him bedfast as the only antidote to the heart-weakening disease.
Rather’s roundabout narrative retraces many paths, particularly those mapped out by his stalwart, hard-working father and his thrifty mother, both of whom sacrificed to assure him and sister Pat a steady living and decent upbringing. To the people of his time and place, work was the panacea of social ills, including shootouts, poverty, racism, and family violence, which abounded in Rather’s neighborhood long before politicians, feminists, and primetime television brought them into public focus. In the style of his father and grandfather, Rather seized whatever jobs came his way, including newsboy, melon and Bible salesman, brush cutter, and pipe layer. These experiences shaped his outlook and pushed him far from hard scrabble toward a football scholarship at Sam Houston State Teachers College and a career in journalism.
Surprisingly candid about his lack of intellectual acumen and athletic prowess, Rather credits the lessons of home with preparing him for his eventual success as one of America’s leading news figures. Proving his tie to the Lone Star State with local lore, anecdotes, adages, tidbits of redneck idiom, and general Americana, he emphasizes that his roots remain firm and sure.