David McCullough, film historian and narrator, dies at 89 : NPR

Historian David McCullough, featured here in 2013, died aged 89. He wrote extensively and persuasively on American history and won two Pulitzer Prizes.

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Historian David McCullough, featured here in 2013, died aged 89. He wrote extensively and persuasively on American history and won two Pulitzer Prizes.

Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe/Getty Images

David McCullough has passed away. He was a brave historian and public intellectual whose biographies of Harry Truman and John Adams won Pulitzer Prizes, and whose best-selling stories of American achievement were complemented by his work as a public television host and narrator for popular films and documentaries, including Ken Burns. ‘ Civil war.

McCullough died sunday at his home in Hingham, Massachusetts, according to his publishers Simon and Schuster. He was 89 years old.

The topics covered by McCullough were enormous. Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal. The crafting of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He wrote about epic characters, from Theodore Roosevelt to the Wright Brothers. McCullough seemed fearless by his subjects; they were fun for him and he made the subjects enchanting for the readers. Perhaps only a McCullough treatment of Truman could have topped the New York Times bestseller list for almost a year; the biography caused a sensation in 1992.

“For a lot of people, the characters, the main characters or the protagonists of the drama of our founding years are perceived as almost like characters in a costume contest with their powdered hair and their ruffled shirts and satin panties and the like” , McCullough told NPR. Talk about the Nation in a 2006 discussion of the Revolutionary War. “But they were none of that. And they weren’t gods, they weren’t superhuman. They were very human beings. And each of them had their flaws, flaws, and mistakes. “

Working on films with Ken Burns

David McCullough, who narrated The Civil War, with film creator Ken Burns.

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Daniel J. White/Ken Burns


David McCullough, who narrated The Civil War, with film creator Ken Burns.

Daniel J. White/Ken Burns

“He heard and respected the voices of people who lived before us,” Burns says of his friend and mentor.

When Burns shot a movie of McCullough’s book on the Brooklyn Bridge, McCullough took time off one day to help improve the script. “He sat down with me and Amy Stechler, the writer of the movie…and I don’t think I’ve ever had a greater tutorial than this afternoon in this studio, with a pencil, watching him change and make the things more dramatic, understanding the essence of the story.”

McCullough was a storyteller and creative consultant for Civil war. “He would just sit and talk to us and say, ‘Remember, this was a huge adventure,'” Burns said. “He urged us to find people who survived the war…and who saw it as a way to broaden their horizons.”

How McCullough Became a Historian

David McCullough grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and studied English literature at Yale University, where he befriended a professor, playwright Thornton Wilder, who wrote the classic Americana. Our city. Although he thought he could also become a playwright, McCullough developed a taste for research while working in magazines in the 1950s.

In addition to writing many acclaimed history books, McCullough narrated the 2003 film sea ​​cookie. It has won the National Book Award twice and, in 2006, became a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.

His alma mater awarded him an honorary degree in 1998. “As a historian, he paints with words,” the quote reads. “To give us images of the American people who live, breathe and, above all, confront the fundamental issues of courage, achievement and moral character.”

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