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John C. Rather - MyEasternShoreMD: Kent County

John C. Rather

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Posted: Monday, July 29, 2013 6:59 pm

CHESTERTOWN - John Carson Rather, 93, died on July 25, 2013 at the Heron Point retirement community in Chestertown, where he had lived since 2004.

The cause of death was complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Mr. Rather was a noted chess player and a contributor to the early automation of the Library of Congress.

Mr. Rather was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on March 31, 1920 to James Burness Rather and Corinne Carson Rather. He attended Erasmus Hall High School and Amherst College. He served in the Army Airways Communications System in India during World War II as a cryptographer, coding and decoding messages controlling the planes flying over the Hump from Burma to China.

In 1951, he received a Masters in Library Science from Columbia University. He was accepted into the Library of Congress intern program and subsequently worked as a cataloger and then as assistant chief of the library’s Descriptive Cataloging Division. He was heavily involved in the automation of the library’s bibliographic collections, rising to the position of director of its Technical Processes Research Office. He retired in 1976 and devoted his energies to his first love – the game of chess.

Mr. Rather learned to play chess at the age of 15. By the time he attended college, he had become so proficient that he played three of his professors in a simultaneous blind-fold exhibition, defeating them all. After the war, he became managing editor of the preeminent chess journal Chess Review. Wryly commenting that he had to choose between eating and chess, he moved on to a library career, but he never gave up his fascination for the game, playing regularly in chess tournaments, and in the late 1980s tying for first place in the District of Columbia chess championship. After his retirement, he became a book dealer in Kensington, specializing in old and rare chess books which he sold to collectors and libraries all over the world.

He is survived by his wife, Lucia Johnson Rather of Chestertown; daughter Susan Wright Rather; son-in-law Richard Wheelus; and grandson Robin James Wheelus, all of Austin, Texas. His first wife, Mary Helen Wright Rather, and his son, Bruce Carson Rather, predeceased him.

A memorial service will be held in Wesley Hall at Heron Point at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16. Interment in the Garden at the Presbyterian Church of Chestertown will be private.

The family has asked that memorial contributions be made to the U.S. Chess Center, 410 8th St., Washington, D.C. 20004. The center is dedicated to teaching chess skills to school children in the National Capital Area.

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