“History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.”
— David McCullough
Best-selling author David McCullough is perhaps the most read and lauded historian of our time.
Originally from Pittsburgh, McCullough studied English literature at Yale University, graduating in 1955. Borrowing a bit of strategy from Thornton Wilder, one of his college teachers, McCullough would get the idea for a new book when he wanted to learn about something. His love of learning was contagious, and through his writing it led to an enriched understanding of some of America’s greatest leaders and significant historical events.
McCullough was a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the first in 1993 for Truman, his biography of the 33rd president of the United States. He won his second Pulitzer in 2002 for John Adams. Both biographies were adapted to film by HBO, with John Adams as a seven-part miniseries starring Paul Giamatti.
In 1978, McCullough earned his first National Book Award for The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870–1914. Learning about Theodore Roosevelt’s role in the construction of the Panama Canal led to his second National Book Award in 1982 for Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt.
Some of his other acclaimed books include The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge, The Wright Brothers, 1776, and, most recently, The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West.
McCullough also became the voice of American history in other ways, as the narrator for Ken Burns’s The Civil War and as the long-time host of PBS’s American Experience.
In recognition of his life’s work, of his profound passion to know about America’s past and to share it, McCullough received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
David McCullough passed away on August 7 of this year at the age of 89.