David McCullough is called the "citizen chronicler" by Librarian of Congress James Billington. His books have led a renaissance of interest in American history--from learning about a flood in Pennsylvania that without warning devastated an entire community to discovering the private achievements and frailties of an uncelebrated president. His biography of Harry Truman won him a Pulitzer, as did his most recent biography of another president, John Adams.
Meeting Thornton Wilder at Yale as an undergraduate inspired McCullough to become a writer--his first love, in fact, had been art. While at college he also met his wife, Rosalee. He learned his craft working at Sports Illustrated, at the United States Information Agency, and at American Heritage. McCullough researched and wrote his first book in the precious hours away from his job with American Heritage; The Johnstown Flood came out in 1968. It was a story and region familiar to McCullough, who was born and raised in nearby Pittsburgh. The book was a success and he became a full-time author.
Since then, McCullough has given us six more books--The Great Bridge, The Path between the Seas, Mornings on Horseback, Brave Companions, Truman, and John Adams--earning him two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, and two Francis Parkman Prizes from the American Society of Historians. His other honors include a Charles Frankel Prize, a National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, and a New York Public Library’s Literary Lion Award.
David McCullough: Well I think John Adams with his sense of history would have laughed any use of the word dynasty for one generation succeeding another generation in the office of the presidency. That two generations does not a dynasty make, if any one family had occupied executive power held executive power under our system for 3, 4, 5 or 6 or 10 generations then that might be constituted as the dynasty. Now I think that like a lot of thing was a people say today it really doesn’t have much historic validity, when people say for example of it about days gone by and lets say the days gone by of 18th century of America. Oh, that was a simpler time, that they didn’t have to contend with the complexities and difficulties be set our time that was the simple time, anybody never says that has no sense of history doesn’t know it he/she is talking about. There was no simpler time ever different time, but not simpler and I think anyone who watches this series, when the realities of smallpox. The realities of medicine would have the benefit of anesthetics, the reality of epidemic disease, the reality of very difficult often horrendously dangerous transportation that come through in the film they will never think that those people in our family they live in the simpler time ever began.
Recorded on: 3/3/08