He sprang into action when it became clear something had gone terribly wrong. Rather described in his 1977 book, "The Camera Never Blinks," that CBS radio went with his report that Kennedy was dead — based not on official confirmation but his phone conversations with men who identified themselves as a doctor and priest at the hospital where Kennedy was taken, and a colleague's conversation with the hospital's chief of staff.
It was an extraordinary risk: if Rather was wrong, he conceded his career in journalism likely would have ended there.
Days later, Rather was among the first people to see film of the assassination taken by Abraham Zapruder and he later described it live on CBS, reading from a spiral notebook what it captured of the president and first lady at the moment of impact. CBS failed, however, to acquire rights to the film.
"I'm proud of what CBS News did at the time," Rather said. "When the country needed it, CBS News was the best in the business."
Rather gave an extensive interview about what happened that day to his old competitor, NBC's Tom Brokaw, for use on Brokaw's NBC special to air Nov. 22.
David Bauder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder.