April 17, 2024

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David McCullough, best-selling explorer of America's past, dies at 89

David McCullough, best-selling explorer of America’s past, dies at 89

David Job McCullough was born in Pittsburgh on July 7, 1933, one of four children of Ruth (Rankin) and Christian McCullough. If he knew of a dark day in his early years, there seems to be no record of him. In interviews, he talks about loving the city schools he attended and having a healthy mix of interests, including reading, sports, and drawing cartoons, all with the encouragement of his parents.

In 1951, he went to Yale University, where he became a member of the secret student society at Yale Skull and Bones and drew inspiration from an English language faculty that included Robert Ben Warren, John O’Hara and John Hersey. He later said that lunchtime conversations with playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder particularly influenced his approach to choosing subjects—first, paying close attention to them—and taught him the importance of maintaining “an air of freedom in the story line,” even when writing nonfiction.

Mr. McCullough graduated in 1955 with Honors in Arts. He has thought about writing novels or plays or, on the other hand, going to medical school; At the event, he signed as a trainee for Sports Illustrated, which had started the previous year. Then came the writer-editor jobs, first at the US Information Agency in Washington and then at the history magazine American Heritage.

Working on nights and weekends over three years, he completed his first book: The Jonestown Flood, published in 1968, made him someone who could take a familiar story—the great dam failure in Pennsylvania in 1889 that killed more than 2,000 people— And give her more life. “Great job,” wrote Alden Whitman of The Times. “Scientific yet alive, balanced yet decisive.”

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With the success of “The Johnstown Flood” and the support of his wife, he took a leap of faith, quitting his day job writing history and biography full time while the couple raised five children. Throughout his career, Mr. McCullough and his wife have been reading his early drafts aloud to each other – a practice he is credited with greatly improving his writing. Mrs. McCullough He passed away in June at the age of 89 At the family home on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where she grew up. He had met Rosalie Barnes at a ballroom in Pittsburgh when they were teenagers, and they married in 1954.