Robert Sherrill is an American investigative journalist and longtime contributor to The Nation, Texas Observer, and many other magazines over the years including Playboy, the New Republic and the New York Times Magazine.
Sherrill was born in Georgia, and served on a merchant ship off Japan at the end of World War II. He was educated at the University of Texas, and taught English at schools including Texas A&M University. A lasting influence was the Syracuse University philosopher Thomas Vernor Smith who preached a commitment to public service.
He was formerly a reporter for the Miami Herald, the Austin American-Statesman, the weekly Texas Observer, and Washington Post. In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War. As the Washington Correspondent and then Corporations Correspondent for The Nation, his efforts landed him on the master list of Nixon's political opponents; the Secret Service also banned him from the White House for "posing a physical threat to the president". He lived for a long time on Capitol Hill, and made friends with some lawmakers. He also worked for I. F. Stone as a staff writer for his weekly, but soon parted ways.
Sherrill has authored numerous books on politics and society, including his Hubert Humphrey biography The Drugstore Liberal (1968), Military Justice Is To Justice as Military Music Is To Music (1970), The Saturday Night Special (1973), The Last Kennedy (1976) and The Oil Follies of 1970-1980: How the Petroleum Industry Stole the Show (And Much More Besides) (1983). His biography of Lyndon Johnson, "The Accidental President", had a run on the best sellers list. He also wrote Gothic Politics in the Deep South and the textbook Why They Call it Politics: A Guide to America's Government.
Sherrill's 1987 article for The New York Times Magazine, "Can Miami Save Itself", caused a firestorm of factual challenges by Miami officials and Cuban Americans, prompting a 304-word Editor's Note from The New York Times.
In his later years he principally wrote reviews of books about politics and corporate greed, and two reviews antagonized the gay community. In his review of Nicholas von Hoffman's biography of Roy Cohn he showed no sympathy for Cohn's death from AIDS and in his 1982 favorable review of "God's Bullies," he said he preferred to call the author "queer" rather than use the author's own description of himself as "gay." That caused an outcry, Sherrill did not apologize and added "I grew up thinking the word [gay] meant happy. For a group to seize the word and apply it to themselves is somewhat grotesque."
- Sherrill, Robert, The Saturday Night Special. Charterhouse, 1973, "About the Author", pp. 337-8.
- “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
- Keating, Joshua E. (June 7, 2010). "Can the White House Revoke a Reporter’s Credentials?". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 8 June 2010.
- Robert Sherrill bio via The Nation
- Works by or about Robert Sherrill in libraries (WorldCat catalog)