NEW YORK - Former anchorman Dan Rather has agreed to leave CBS after 44 years, the network announced Tuesday. The 74-year-old Rather has complained of being virtually forgotten at CBS Corp. since his exit as anchor last year, six months after a discredited story on President Bush's military service.
He has said he is considering an offer to do a weekly show at the HDNet high-definition network.
"There will always be a part of Dan Rather at CBS News," said Sean McManus, CBS News president. "He is truly a `reporter's reporter,' and he has helped to train several generations of broadcast journalists. His legacy cannot be replicated."
Rather, whose final CBS News report aired on "CBS Sunday Morning" this weekend, will be the subject of a prime-time special on his career this fall, CBS said.
The network also said it had made a contribution to Rather's alma mater, Sam Houston State University.
The Texan has worked at CBS News since 1962, covering stories ranging from the Kennedy assassination to the 2001 terrorist attacks. He was the "CBS Evening News" anchor who replaced Walter Cronkite in 1981 until signing off with the admonition "courage" on March 9, 2005.
Rather apparently hadn't even seen the report questioning Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard service before introducing it on the air in September 2004. When CBS News couldn't substantiate the story following questions about its sources, Rather became a symbol of the incident even as he escaped official blame.
Since then, Rather's on-air appearances have been infrequent. He contributed eight stories to "60 Minutes" this season, about half the airtime of most full-time correspondents there. His most recent "60 Minutes" story, a profile of Whole Foods Market, aired June 4.
In interviews last week, Rather made clear the professional divorce was imminent. He told The New York Times that he wanted to stay with "60 Minutes," but that CBS News had offered him a contract with no specific affiliation to any program.
For more than two decades, Rather dominated broadcast news along with NBC's Tom Brokaw and the late Peter Jennings of ABC. They were the faces seen every evening and whenever big news broke.
Rather always considered himself a reporter first, and the habit of news anchors to travel to the scenes of big stories is largely his legacy. His interview with Saddam Hussein in 2003 was the last given by the Iraqi leader before he was toppled.
With his intense on-air demeanor, Rather also had his detractors, and his broadcast was a distant third in the evening news ratings at the time he stepped down. CBS News' ratings have rebounded under short-term successor Bob Schieffer; Katie Couric will take over the broadcast in September.