David McCullough, Best-Selling Author and Historian, Dies at 89

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This best-selling history writer was a cherished and celebrated member of the American community, an unabashed student of the past who shared his enthusiasm with the public. A lifelong enquirer, David McCullough wrote about the Panama Canal, the Brooklyn Bridge, Adams and Truman, the Wright Brothers, and Paris. His writing was considered essential reading by many.

David McCullough was a popular historian

The author of The Humans of New York, David McCullough was a popular and authoritative voice on American history. He is considered a unique American humanist and historian. His work is popular because he has been able to project serious reflection on the subject of American history to a wide audience. McCullough is a true humanist, as his books take the reader inside the social worlds of the subjects.

After earning a degree in English literature from Yale University, David McCullough worked for the Time-Life Sports Illustrated magazine in New York City. In 1961, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked for the United States Information Agency. McCullough was appointed an editor at the American Heritage Publishing Company, where he continued to write. His book about the Wright Brothers, a pair of unknown young men from Ohio, taught the world the power of flight. The book earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006.

He won two Pulitzer Prizes

Author David McCullough has won a number of awards for his books, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Francis Parkman Prize for history. His works have also been recognized by the National Book Foundation, the National Humanities Medal, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters with the Gold Medal for Biography. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and received fifty-four honorary degrees.

McCullough, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, studied English literature at Yale University and met Thorton Wilder, the author of the American classic Our City. Although McCullough had initially planned to become a playwright, his interest in history developed during his work at a magazine in the 1950s. He was also the narrator of the film Sea biscuit, and he won the National Book Award twice.

He was a non-academic

McCullough has a reputation for being an ‘authoritative’ writer but was also accused of romanticizing the past and avoiding tougher truths about Truman and Adams. Some have criticized him for placing storytelling above analysis, but that is not an accurate assessment. While McCullough did have the requisite knowledge to be a good historian, it was clear he was not the most academically trained historian.

Before establishing his own historical practice, McCullough worked for the United States Information Agency, Sports Illustrated, and Time. In 1961, he joined the U.S. Information Agency and made his literary debut with “The Johnstown Flood.” Later, he worked at American Heritage Publishing in New York, where he came up with his next idea: a book about the 1889 flood.

He was a humanist

David McCullough, a uniquely American humanist, was the recipient of numerous awards for his works of history. He won two Pulitzer Prizes for his books, Truman and John Adams, and two National Book Awards for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback. He was also awarded the aforementioned Presidential Medal of Freedom. His writings are considered to be important works of American history.

After graduating from Yale, McCullough considered writing fiction or attending medical school. But he landed a job as a trainee at Sports Illustrated, which had just started publication the year before. McCullough began working as a writer and editor for Sports Illustrated, and later, for the United States Information Agency in Washington and the history magazine American Heritage.

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