David McCullough, award-winning American historian, dies at 89

David McCullough, award-winning author and historian, has died at the age of 89. File photo by Alexis C. Glenn/UPI.
1 of 4 | David McCullough, award-winning author and historian, has died at the age of 89. File photo by Alexis C. Glenn/UPI. | License Photo

Aug. 8 (UPI) -- David McCullough, American historian and winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom, has died at the age of 89.

McCullough, who was acclaimed as a "master of the art of narrative history," died Sunday at his home in Hingham, Mass., less than two months after his wife, according to a statement from his publisher Simon & Schuster.


"David McCullough was a national treasure," said Simon & Schuster chief executive Jonathan Karp. "His books brought history to life for millions of readers."

McCullough published 12 books, which have sold more than 14 million copies and are all still in print today.

He won Pulitzers, for his best-selling biographies of Presidents Harry Truman and John Adams, and was awarded the National Book Award twice, for The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal and Mornings on Horseback about Theodore Roosevelt's early years.


"I want my books to be read by people of all kinds," McCullough said in a 2005 interview with the Boston Globe. "I want to write for the fellow who lives next door over here, and I want to write for the president of MIT. But most of all, I want to write the kind of book I'd want to read."

McCullough was born in 1933 in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he learned to tell stories at his family's dinner table after listening to his parents and grandmother talk about the world and history, he told The Wall Street Journal in 2015.

He went on to study English literature at Yale University between 1951 and 1955 when McCullough said he discovered the "thrill of research."

"Once I discovered the endless fascination of doing the research and of doing the writing, I knew I had found what I wanted to do in my life."

McCullough published his first book The Johnstown Flood in 1968.

Besides Truman and John Adams, McCullough also wrote The Great Bridge, Brave Companions, 1776, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, The Wright Brothers and The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For and The Pioneers.


According to Simon & Schuster, John Adams remains one of the most praised and widely read American biographies of all time.

McCullough wrote all of his books on a typewriter. "I don't want to go faster," he said in a video posted by Simon & Schuster. "I like the sound of it. I like the bell ringing when it gets to the end of a line," he said.

McCullough also lent his voice to public television as host of Smithsonian World, The American Experience and was a narrator for numerous documentaries, including Ken Burn's The Civil War, the film Seabiscuit and Tom Hank's acclaimed seven-part mini-series John Adams.

In 2006, McCullough received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, from former President George W. Bush who called him "the voice of history."

McCullough also conveyed his life-long knowledge of history as an editor, teacher and lecturer.

Yale awarded him an honorary degree saying "as an historian, he paints with words, giving us pictures of the American people that live, breathe and, above all, confront the fundamental issues of courage, achievement and moral character."

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