Rankin Barbee

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David Rankin Barbee (October 15, 1874, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee—March 7, 1958, Orange, Texas) was an American journalist, a public relations writer for the Roosevelt administration and a researcher in American history, best known for writing on Southern history.[1][2] Barbee, known by his middle name Rankin, was a descended from a powerful Tennessee political family.


From 1928 to 1933 Rankin Barbee wrote the column "Profiles" in the Washington Post, earning him "a large and loyal audience."[1] He then joined the administration of Franklin Roosevelt as a public relations writer for the Federal Alcohol Administration.[1]

After his retirement, he became a full-time historic researcher, mostly writing on Southern history and on Abraham Lincoln. His research appeared in history magazines and in book form. He was represented by the literary agent Barthold Fles.[3]

Today his papers are in the special collections of the Georgetown University Library.


Rankin Barbee was the son of Dr. James Barbee and Margaret Rankin of Jasper, Tennessee and the nephew of Tennessee Attorney General George J. Stubblefield and Federal District Judge William R. Rankin. Barbee, Sr., was the Publishing Agent for the United Methodist Publishing House in the 1890s and pastor of McKendree Methodist Church at the same time. Rankin Barbee's mother and uncle had moved to Nashville during the Civil War to be closer to their sister, Mary Anne Rankin and her husband George Stubblefield. The family's political fortunes were tied to its relationship with then Tennessee Governor and future President Andrew Johnson. Rankin Barbee's grandfather, David Rankin of Jasper, Tennessee was born in Greeneville, Tennessee and had served in the State Legislature with Johnson in the 1830s. In addition, Johnson's grandfather, Andrew McDonough, had married Barbee's great-grandmother, Rhoda Sartain Roberson, in his second marriage.

Barbee's family included first cousin Thomas Turley Rankin who was head attorney for the Home Owners Loan Corporation and the War Assets Administration. Rankin's uncle William Roberson Rankin was a Federal District Judge in Nashville from 1863-1865.



  • 1928 - An Excursion in Southern History
  • 1930 - Washington, City of Mighty Events
  • 1946 - Did James F. Shunk Forge the Cotton Mather Letter? The Answer Is: Definitely No.
  • 1947 - The Capture of Jefferson Davis
  • 1951 - Lincoln, Chase, and the Rev. Dr. Richard Fuller



  1. ^ a b c David Rankin Barbee: A biographical sketch
  2. ^ Tyler's Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine 33: 141. 1952. "All through the Southern States and to two generations of Washingtonians David Rankin Barbee is a legend. It calls to mind a man with a veritable passion for the truth and endowed with a seemingly inexhaustible amount of surplus energy for tracking it down..." 
  3. ^ "Margaret Bearden papers: Folder listing". "Barthold Fles was Barbee's and Eisenschiml's publishing agent." 

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