David McCullough, Best-Selling Explorer of America’s Past, Dies at 89
David Gaub McCullough was born in Pittsburgh on July 7, 1933, one of four sons of Ruth (Rankin) and Christian McCullough. If he ever knew of a dark day in his early years, there seems to be no documentation of it. In interviews, he talks about how he loves the schools in the city he attends and has many healthy hobbies, including reading, sports, and drawing cartoons, all of which are supported by his father. his mother encouraged.
In 1951, he went to Yale, where he became a member of Yale’s secret student body Skull and Bones and was inspired by an English instructor that included Robert Penn Warren, John O’Hara, and John Hersey. Lunchtime conversations with novelist and playwright Thornton Wilder, he later said, were particularly influential in his approach to choosing subjects—first, be deeply concerned. to them—and taught him the importance of maintaining an “air of freedom in the story,” even when writing non-fiction.
Mr. McCullough graduated in 1955 with a distinguished degree in literature. He was thinking of writing novels or plays or otherwise, going to medical school; during the event, he signed on as an intern at Sports Illustrated, which had begun the previous year. Then came work as a writer and editor, first at the United States Information Agency in Washington and later at the historical magazine American Heritage.
Working nights and weekends for three years, he completed his first book: “The Johnstown Flood,” published in 1968, making him someone who could tell a familiar story—the great dam failure in Pennsylvania in 1889 killed more than 2,000 people – and gave it a bigger life. “A great job,” writes Alden Whitman of The Times. “Academic yet lively, balanced yet profound.”
With the success of “Johnstown Flood” and the support of his wife, he took a leap of faith, giving up his day job to write history and biography full-time while the couple raise five children. Throughout his career, Mr McCullough and his wife would read aloud his early manuscripts to each other – a method he says has greatly improved his writing. Mrs. McCullough died in June at age 89 at the family home on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., where she was raised. He met Rosalee Barnes at a dance in Pittsburgh when they were teenagers, and they married in 1954.