February 2, 2001
Here’s a question that comes up every now and then: Was Dan Rather, the CBS-TV news anchor, born in Perry? That may seem absurd, but at one time there was a family with a very similar name living here. I personally do not believe that Mr. Rather came from this community. That is primarily just a hunch with no hard facts as a basis.
A colorful lady named Addie Rathers once resided here, and the story goes that she was the mother of the noted TV newsman. But wait a minute. Her name was “Rathers” (with an S) while his is the singular “Rather,” minus the final letter S. Certainly that alone means nothing. He could have dropped the S for some reason.
I went to my small collection of old Perry city directories in search of a clue, and found very little. Actually, there may be records at the state health department or elsewhere that contain information relating to this question. For one thing, Mr. Rather has written an autobiography, but I have not read it. Friends who have perused the book tell me that it makes no mention of Perry, Oklahoma, and that might be an arguing point for those of us who do not believe he has roots in our town.
Addie Rathers was the wife, later the widow, of John Rathers. The 1910-11 city directory lists his home address as Fourth street, “near A,” and it shows his occupation as “drayman.” You don’t hear that term very often these days, but in the early years of the 20th century it was applied to men who hauled goods on a strong low cart or a wagon without sides. That early day directory does not list a wife for Mr. Rathers. The 1940 city directory contains the name of “Edd Cook” and his wife, Addie, living at 115 Fourth street. That was after Mr. Rathers had died and his wife remarried. The 1948 and 1952 city directories also contain listings for Mr. and Mrs. Cook as residents of 117 Fourth street. His first name is spelled “Ed” in 1948 and as “Edd” in the 1952 directory, but that could be simply a typographical error. The city directories were published by Moorhead Directory Co. of Wilson, Oklahoma, and they rarely contained names of juveniles. Today they are worth their weight in gold as reliable sources of information.
I’m told there are people living right here who know for a fact that Dan Rather is the son of Addie Rathers and that he spent some of his early years growing up in Perry. Those people have no reason to distort the truth and I respect their assertions, but I remain unconvinced. If nothing else, the story gives us something to talk about and argue about, in a friendly way. What’s your opinion?