James Albert Michener, 1907 - 1997

portrait of James A. Michener
At Pearl Harbor, photo by Robert Wilson, US Navy (7 December 1991)

Born: 3 February 1907, Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Died: 16 October 1997, Austin, Texas

James Albert Michener was probably born on this day in 1907, the exact location is unknown. He was abandoned by his birth mother and raised as a Quaker by his adoptive mother Mabel Michener at Doylestown, Pennsylvania. He graduated summa cum laude from Swarthmore in 1929, traveled and studied in Europe for two years, taught English in Pennsylvania, earned his Masters at Colorado State Teachers College and taught there for several years, taught at Harvard for a year and then became social studies education editor at Macmillan Publishers. Although his religion exempted him from military service, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II and served as a naval historian in the south Pacific. Based on that experience, he wrote Tales of the South Pacific, his first novel, which won a Pulitzer for fiction. He is best known for sweeping, epic novels based on places, starting with Hawaii in 1959, and including such titles as Alaska, Texas, and Chesapeake. After campaigning for John F. Kennedy in 1960, in '62 he ran for Congress, lost, and went back to writing. He traveled widely, researched diligently, and wrote big, fat, readable books (several were over 1,000 pages), selling over 75 million copies. This allowed him to give away over a hundred million dollars, mostly to universities, libraries, and museums. He spent his last years at Austin, Texas where he founded an MFA program for writers at the University of Texas. He had been on daily dialysis for four years when he elected to discontinue treatment and soon died of renal failure.

Biography from Wikipedia and Academy of Achievement

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