Henry Steele Commager, 1902 - 1998

portrait of Henry Steele Commager


Born: 25 October 1902, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died: 2 March 1998, Amherst, Massachusetts

Commager was orphaned early in life and raised by his maternal grandfather, a paster in the Danish Lutheran Church, first at Toledo, Ohio and then Chicago. He got a job in the University of Chicago library which gave him the opportunity to study there, earning his B.A. (1923), M.A. (1924), and Ph.D. (1928). He began teaching at New York University in 1926, moved to Columbia University in 1936, and finally to Amherst College in 1956 where he taught until 1992. He also was a visiting professor at several American universities as well as both Cambridge and Oxford. He wrote clearly of American history and argued passionately for the import of the Bill of Rights, against McCarthyism, against Viet Nam, and against questionable policies of Nixon and Reagan. He wrote or edited at least fifteen volumes of history and over 700 essays and reviews. He strongly believed that historians ought not stay in the ivory tower but to share their perspective with the public and he was a tireless public speaker on the subjects he knew best. He died of pneumonia at home under the care of Mary, his second wife.

Biography from Wikipedia and Richard B. Bernstein on commager.org

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