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David McCullough, Award-Winning Writer and U.S. Historian, Dies at 89

Best-selling writer and award-winning American historian David McCullough died at the age of 89 on Sunday.

McCullough was known for writing multiple books on American history and winning two Pulitzer Prizes for his writings on American presidents Harry Truman in 1994 and John Adams in 2001.

The author died at his home in Hingham, Massachusetts, surrounded by his five children, Simon and Schuster announced in a press release. His wife, Rosalee, passed away two months ago.

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McCullough’s first book was Johnstown Flood in 1968, based on the catastrophic failure of the South Fork Dam in 1889 that destroyed the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, killing thousands.

His next two books ventured into architecture as he documented the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in The Great Bridge in 1972 and the Panama Canal in The Path Between the Seas in 1977.

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Along with his award-winning work on Truman and John Adams, McCullough also wrote a 1981 biography of the nation’s 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, titled Mornings on Horseback.

McCullough’s work on John Adams inspired the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries of the same name in 2008. The best-selling author also wrote a companion to his work on the nation’s second president based on the early days of the American Revolution in his book 1776.

The New York Times noted that Truman was on the top of its bestseller list for 43 weeks, while John Adams was also number one in the first week of its release.

McCullough’s later writings focused on the great American pioneers, including aviation inventors Orville and Wilbur Wright in The Wright Brothers in 2015 and America’s early settlers into the west in The Pioneers in 2019.

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McCullough was no stranger to the small screen, as he was featured in PBS documentaries such as Ken Burn’s The Civil War in 1990 and the long-running show The American Experience.

He also provided narration to explain historical context within Hollywood’s 2003 movie Seabiscuit.

From his home on Martha’s Vineyard, McCullough would write his works on a Royal Standard typewriter, the Associated Press (AP) noted.

McCullough’s distinguished life included addressing a joint session of Congress in 1989 and receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006.

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President George W. Bush, right, bestows the Presidential Medal of Freedom to author and historian David McCullough during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Dec. 15, 2006. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File/AP)

“David McCullough was national treasure. His books brought history to life for millions of readers. Through his biographies, he dramatically illustrated the most ennobling parts of the American character,” said Simon and Schuster CEO Jonathan Karp.

Following the news of his passing, tributes poured in on social media, with many commenters noting how McCullough’s works inspired them to read more about the history of America.

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McCullough and his wife had five children, nineteen grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

You can follow Ethan Letkeman on Twitter at @EthanLetkeman.

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