Two-Time Pulitzer Prize Winner David McCulloch Dies at 89Historians in the News
tags: popular history, biography, David McCulloch
David McCullough was a young researcher at the U.S. Information Agency when he walked into the Library of Congress in 1961 and chanced upon a photography exhibit depicting the 1889 flood in Johnstown, Pa., the deadliest in American history.
“I was overwhelmed by the violence revealed in them, the destruction,” Mr. McCullough, who was from the same area of western Pennsylvania, later told the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat. More than 2,200 people died, and a thriving coal-and-steel town was submerged in muddy debris because wealthy industrialists had neglected a dam.
The passage of time had reduced the tragedy to a historical footnote, Mr. McCullough discovered, with little if any serious scholarly study devoted to it. Undaunted by his own inexperience — “I imagined myself being a writer, but never a writer of history,” he said — he set out to write a book about the Johnstown flood.
For years, he dedicated his spare time to his research, interviewing the few remaining survivors to capture their memories of sudden terror, desperate acts of self-preservation and the awful duty, in the aftermath, of identifying the dead.
“The Johnstown Flood,” published in 1968, became a bestseller, rekindled national interest in the disaster and instantly established its author as a historian with an exceptional gift for animating history.
Mr. McCullough, long regarded as a master storyteller of American daring, endeavor and perseverance, died Aug. 7 at his home in Hingham, Mass. He was 89.
comments powered by Disqus
- Black Family and Kansas History Converge at Nicodemus Reunion
- Law is Unclear Whether Public College Faculty Have Free Speech Rights in Classroom
- Recovering the Story of the Black Men who were the Nation's First Paramedics
- U of Idaho Advises Faculty of Legal Jeopardy for Discussing Abortion in Classrooms
- The Long Shadow of Pinochet Over Chile's Constitutional Referendum
- Misha Matsumoto Yee is Gilder Lehrman's History Teacher of the Year
- Aaron Burr: The Highest Ranking US Official to be Charged with Treason – So Far?
- When Italian Immigrants were Tricked into Debt Peonage in the Jim Crow South
- Joshua Tait: Will Thiel-Backed Extremists Torpedo GOP Senate Hopes?
- Marcus Weaver-Hightower on the Politics of School Lunch