Craigan Paul Shirley
September 24, 1956
|Alma mater||Springfield College|
|Occupation||Reagan biographer and historian|
Craigan Paul Shirley (born September 24, 1956) is an American author, lecturer, historian and public affairs consultant. He has written four bestsellers on Ronald Reagan which include Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign that Changed America (2014), Reagan's Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All (2005), and Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan (2015), and Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980 (2017). He is also the author of Citizen Newt: The Making of a Reagan Conservative (2017), the only authorized biography of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's early career. Shirley is now at work on three new books on Reagan and his book, Mary Ball Washington, a biography about George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington, was released December 2019.
Shirley also wrote December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World, a New York Times bestseller published in December 2011 about the attack on Pearl Harbor and its effects on the American people and culture. Most of Shirley's books have gone to paperback. Several documentaries have been produced based in part on the 1976 and 1980 Reagan campaign and December 1941, for the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Rendezvous with Destiny was cited in a Wall Street Journal column by Michael Medved as one of the five best campaign books, ever. John Heubusch, Director of the Reagan Library has called Shirley the “unofficial, official biographer of Ronald Reagan.”
Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Shirley earned a degree in History and Political Science from Springfield College. Shirley was named by the London Telegraph, "the best of the Reagan biographers"  Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard called him "a prominent biographer of Ronald Reagan," Mark Levin called him "one of the best of the Reagan biographers," and the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard, said Shirley is a "noted Ronald Reagan biographer." Laura Ingraham has often noted Shirley's authority as a Reagan scholar, and author Romesh Ratnesar noted in a review in The New York Times that he "is a sure-footed and entertaining observer of the hurly-burly of national politics." Reagan's former speechwriter Aram Bakshian refers to him as "the best source for understanding Ronald Reagan." Shirley's third book on Reagan’s final years, the topic which had never been covered before, Last Act, was also highly praised for its rich writing and intricate detail and research. With regard to his fourth book, Reagan Rising, and Reagan speechwriter Clark Judge called Shirley "the most prolific and….most influential" of the Reagan biographers. He compared Shirley’s writings to the Greek general Thucydides, who wrote a history of the Peloponnesian War, after fighting in it. "Reading Craig Shirley has become essential for any Ronald Reagan student," said Judge.
Shirley has also written numerous articles and given dozens of lectures about the life and times and lessons of Ronald Reagan.
Life and career
Youth and education
Shirley is the second son of Edward Bruce Shirley and Barbara Cone Shirley. He is of English and Scottish descent. His parents were charter members of the New York State Conservative Party and his father was the first registered conservative voter in the Empire State. In 1964 he went door to door for presidential candidate Barry Goldwater at age 8. In high school, Shirley was a standout athlete, winning six varsity letters, winning the league pole vaulting championship and was named "Most Improved Athlete" his senior year. He was also the editor of his high school newspaper.
Craig Shirley was professionally involved in American politics and government for over three decades. He worked in government and on campaigns at the congressional, gubernatorial, and presidential levels but now spend his time writing and lecturing on presidential politics and American history.
In the fall of 1978, Shirley was press secretary for Gordon Humphrey, who scored a huge upset win in the U.S. Senate election in New Hampshire. Shirley then served on Humphrey's Washington D.C. staff. Ronald Reagan came into New Hampshire to campaign for Humphrey, where Shirley first met Governor Reagan.
In 1980, he ran an important independent expenditure campaign is support of former California governor Ronald Reagan’s presidential bid in the first six primary states on behalf of the Fund for a Conservative Majority. Shirley produced and placed radio and newspaper ads in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and three other states maximizing the three quarters of a million dollars FCM budgeted for the campaign to help Reagan at a time when his own campaign was broke.
He joined the staff of the Republican National Committee in 1982. As a Communications Advisor, Shirley traveled across the country advising dozens of campaigns and state committees on public relations, political advertising, and campaign strategy to co-ordinate with the message of the Reagan White House.
In 1984, during the U.S. presidential campaign, Shirley was the Director of Communications for the National Conservative Political Action Committee, America’s largest independent political committee, which spent over $14 million on behalf of President Ronald Reagan’s re-election on another independent expenditure campaign. In 1986, he became a consultant to the Fund for America’s Future, the political action committee of Vice President George H. W. Bush, working closely with the future President George W. Bush. Shirley was retained and tasked with the goal of organizing conservative support for George H. W. Bush’s 1988 presidential bid.
After Reagan’s reelection and in the late fall of 1984, Shirley opened his own firm and worked on numerous matters in co-ordination with the Reagan White House including aid to the Nicaraguan Contras, support for the Strategic Defensive Initiative, support for the Afghanistan Mujahideen, support for Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA, and support for the Tax Reform Act of 1986. He also worked on the White House Conference on Small Business in 1985.
In 1991, Shirley ran a major advertising and public affairs campaign supporting President Bush and Operation Desert Storm, later represented the Embassy of the State of Kuwait, and was placed in charge of public relations for an international conference on democracy hosted in Prague by President Václav Havel of then Czechoslovakia. For a short time, Shirley and David Keene partnered in a firm, but that association ended amicably in 1992.
In 1994, Shirley organized a successful grassroots campaign to stop the "Clinton Crime Bill" on behalf of a host of clients, including the National Rifle Association. The collapse of the "Clinton Crime Bill" led directly to the historic GOP takeover of Congress later that year.
During the 1990s, Shirley conceived and created Citizens for State Power, which represented small investor owned utilities and they successfully stopped the attempts by Enron to nationalize the electricity grid. Shirley also advised the Southeastern Legal Foundation to file suit against the Clinton Administration’s attempt to politicize the census. The case went to the Supreme Court and there the SLF prevailed, defeating Clinton in an historic 5–4 vote. Shirley pioneered the "New Media"—and indeed coined the very phrase—of talk radio, faxes, e-mail and later the internet to mobilize for politics and policy. He has also coined the term "Vichy Republicans" and "Police State Republicans."
Shirley led a team of Reagan historians and Reagan White House veterans to challenge the veracity and truthfulness of Bill O'Reilly's book, Killing Reagan. He later contributed to the cancellation of Will Ferrell's comedy about Ronald Reagan's Alzheimer's. He also consults occasionally for the Reagan Library on special projects and campaign-related exhibits.
In addition to working with a host of political, corporate, and trade concerns, he also served as an informal advisor to the 1996 campaign of Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole. In 2000, his firm provided in-kind support to the presidential campaign of then Governor George W. Bush as well as the Florida recount. In that same year, Craig Shirley & Associates became Shirley & Banister Public Affairs.
Through his writings, he has popularized the philosophy of "Localism," and indeed coined the phrase, a 21st-century version of Federalism.
Shirley was also a decorated contract agent for the CIA.
Shirley is now working on three more books on Reagan including a detailed look at his 1968 run for the presidency. He is also writing a book about Dr. Howard Snyder, personal physician to President Dwight Eisenhower, as well as a book about George Washington’s family. He additionally plans to write the sequel to Citizen Newt, about Newt Gingrich's years as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. He is also working on a book about Harry S. Truman and a book about James Monroe.
Achievements and awards
He is also a member of the Reagan Alumni Association. He has addressed the Friends of Ronald Reagan association in Los Angeles and occasionally consults for the Reagan Library, especially on campaign displays and political history.
He was chosen in 2005 by Springfield College as their Outstanding Alumnus and has been named the Visiting Reagan Scholar at Eureka College, Ronald Reagan's alma mater. He taught a week long class, "Reagan 101" at Eureka College in 2012.
He was also appointed as a Trustee of Eureka. He is also a member of the school’s Reagan Forward Advisory Council.
In the fall of 2019, he will teach a course on Ronald Reagan at the University of Virginia.
His writings have solved some of the mysteries of Washington and politics including the stolen Carter Briefing Books in 1980, the missing cornerstone to the U.S. Capitol  and the real story about the night of the Watergate breakin, to name just a few. He also uncovered a Top Secret memo written by the Office of Naval Intelligence on December 4, 1941, putting information on the possible attack at Pearl Harbor inside the Roosevelt White House, three days before the attack.
His book December 1941: 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World (2011), was nominated for 2011 Book of the Year Award by Foreword Reviews magazine. His book, Last Act, was named best narrative in the non-fiction category by USA Book News for 2015.
He is a member of various author’s guilds, Philadelphia Society, the Fusionist Society and the Lyn Nofziger Society. He is a former board member of the American Conservative Union. He has also lectured at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, Friends of Ronald Reagan (FORR) and Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics.
He has also lectured at the Buckley Center at Yale, at Larry Sabato’s Center for Politics at UVA, at Georgetown University, at Hillsdale College, at Regent University, the Miller Center of Public Affairs, and other colleges and universities. He has also addressed the Ronald Reagan Lecture Series in Los Angeles in 2017.
He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the historic Christ Church, is a member of the Tappahannock Rotary and he and Zorine are member of the Rappahannock Christian Church.
Op-eds and media appearances
Shirley is a frequent commentator on politics. He has written for publications including The Washington Post, the Washington Times, the Los Angeles Times, Townhall, the Weekly Standard, the Washington Examiner, Newsmax, National Review, Reuters, Investors Business Daily, Politico, Breitbart, Lifezette, Conservative Review, CNS News, and many other publications. He is also frequently sought after for televised interviews on all major networks, including CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX News, MSNBC, C-SPAN, FOX Business and CNN.
He is a regular commentator on Newsmax TV, appearing often on John Bachman's Newsmax Now.
Craig Shirley and his wife, Zorine, are the parents of four children, Matthew, Andrew, Taylor and Mitchell. They split their time between "Trickle Down Point" on the Rappahannock River in Lancaster, Virginia and "Ben Lomond," a 300-year-old Georgian manor house in Tappahannock, VA. His hobbies include sailing, writing, scuba diving, water skiing, sport shooting, and renovating old buildings.
In 1984 while at a fundraiser on the presidential yacht Sequoia, Shirley caught actress and dancer Ginger Rogers, who had snagged her high heels on the rug on the steps at the aft of the boat. Rodgers later that night attended a state dinner at the White House hosted by her old co-star, Ronald Reagan.
Shirley is the acting chairman of the revived political action committee, Citizens for the Republic, originally established in January 1977 by Ronald Reagan after his defeat for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination the preceding summer. On its website, Citizens for the Republic describes itself as a "national organization dedicated to revitalizing the conservative movement. Through education, grassroots organization, advocacy, and political activism...promoting the principles of limited government, maximum freedom, personal responsibility, peace through strength, and defense of the dignity of every individual". The CFTR directors include former Reagan advisors and consultants, such as the honorable Ed Meese and Reagan speechwriter Mari Maseng Will.
Shirley is the founder of the Ft. Hunt Youth Lacrosse Program, and was a coach there for 14 years. In the 20 plus years since Shirley founded the program, thousands of boys and girls have enjoyed learning and playing for Ft. Hunt. Shirley was instrumental in getting the Maryland legislature to make lacrosse the state’s sport. He was also an editor of Coaching Youth Lacrosse, published by the Lacrosse Foundation.
His coaching record was 121 wins and 19 losses when he was head coach.
- Reagan's Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All (Thomas Nelson, 2005)
- Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2009)
- December 1941: 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World (Thomas Nelson, 2011)
- Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan (Thomas Nelson, 2015)
- Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980 (HarperCollins, 2017)
- Citizen Newt: The Making of a Reagan Conservative (Thomas Nelson, 2017)
- Mary Ball Washington: The Untold Story of George Washington's Mother (Harper Collins 2019)
- Cowles, Gregory. "New York Times Bestsellers". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
- Stanley, Tim. "The Invisible Bridge The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan by Rick Perlstein, review problematic, partisan analysis". The London Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
- Barnes, Fred. "Prominent Reagan Biographer Accuses Another of Plagiarism". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved 2014-08-05.
- Levin, Mark. "Mark Levin calls Craig Shirley "one of the best of the Reagan biographers"". The Mark Levin Show. Retrieved 2016-02-10.
- Bedard, Paul. "Reagan biographer Craig Shirley's newest could give GOP a roadmap to the White House". The Washington Examiner.
- Ratnesar, Romesh (2017-03-31). "How Reagan and the New Right Resuscitated the G.O.P." The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-15.
- Bakshian, Aram. "Aram Bakshian calls Craig Shirley "the best source for understanding Ronald Reagan"". The Washington Times.
- "Reagan in the Wilderness | National Review". National Review. 2017-04-17. Retrieved 2018-07-17.
- "Edward Shirley Dies In Hospital". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. March 12, 1977. Retrieved 2015-04-08.
- Thompson, Krissah. "Meet Craig Shirley and Diana Banister, the right's pitch-perfect conservatives". The Washington Post.
- "Craig Shirley; Author, Historian, Lecturer". Retrieved 2015-04-24.
- Quenqua, Douglas. "Profile: Shirley helps right-wing ideals reach new heights". The PR Week.
- "Ronald Reagan: A look at his life, presidency and policies with Craig Shirley". Retrieved 2015-04-26.
- Shirley, Craig. "Ronald Reagan: A look at his life, presidency and policies with Craig Shirley". The Washington Post.
- "A Bit of History". Archived from the original on 2015-04-28. Retrieved 2015-04-25.
- Dillin, John. "Ad campaigns on behalf of candidates are rough-and-tumble". The Christian Science Monitor.
- "Craig Shirley". Retrieved 2015-04-18.
- "About Us". Retrieved 2015-04-26.
- "Craig Shirley". Retrieved 2015-04-18.
- Drinkard, Jim. "Fronts in Lobbying Edging Grass Roots". The Associated Press.
- Suebsaeng, Asawin (2016-04-30). "Was Will Ferrell's Reagan Comedy Really Mocking Alzheimer's?". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2017-10-16.
- "Ferrell, O'Reilly and the Fiction of Reagan". CNS News. 2016-05-02. Retrieved 2017-10-16.
- "About Craig Shirley".
- Shirley, Craig (2011). December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World. Thomas Nelson. ISBN 978-1-59555-457-4.
- "Inside the Beltway: A Reagan reminder" (web). washingtontimes.com. Retrieved July 2, 2012.
- "Reagan Ranch Board of Governors". Retrieved 2012-08-08.
- "Lecture with author Craig SHirley" (web). craigshirley.com. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
- "Lecture and Book Signing with Craig Shirley". Archived from the original on 2015-04-28. Retrieved 2015-04-26.
- "Ronald Reagan". Retrieved 2015-04-23.
- "EC elects trustees, officers". Retrieved 2015-04-22.
- "Lessons in Leadership: A New Batten Course on Reagan". Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, UVA. Retrieved 2019-05-21.
- Shirley, Craig. "New book pins 'debategate' on Democrat". Politico.
- Shirley, Craig. "Romancing the Cornerstone". Townhall.
- Shirley, Craig. "The Bartender's Tale: How the Watergate Burglars Got Caught". The Washington Magazine.
- Goddard, Jacqui. "Pearl Harbour memo shows US warned of Japanese attack". The Telegraph.
- "BOTYA 2011 Finalists In History (Adult Nonfiction)" (web). forewordreviews.com. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
- "USA Book News Announces Winners And Finalists Of The 2015 USA Best Book Awards". USABookNews.com. Archived from the original (web) on December 8, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
- "Craig Shirley; Author, Historian, Lecturer". Retrieved 2015-04-24.
- "Ninth Annual Roosevelt Reading Festival" (web). fdrlibrary.marist.edu. Retrieved July 2, 2012.
- "Friends of the Dole Institute Private Annual Dinner With Craig Shirley, author of Rendezvous with Destiny". doleinstitute.org. Archived from the original (web) on December 15, 2010. Retrieved July 2, 2012.
- "William F. Buckley, Jr. Program: "Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Election, and A Time for Choosing: 50 Years Later"". Retrieved 2015-04-21.
- "8th Annual American Democracy Conference Opens Thursday". Retrieved 2015-04-27.
- "Freedom Library Catalog" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-04-20.
- "The Ronald Reagan Symposium 2015". Retrieved 2015-08-06.
- "Craig Shirley; Author, Historian, Lecturer". Retrieved 2015-04-24.
- "Officers". Retrieved 2015-04-27.
- "Mission". Retrieved 2015-04-27.
- Hosticka, Alexis. "Fort Hunt Youth Lacrosse Celebrates 25th Year". Alexandria Gazette Packet.
- Reagan's Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign that Started it All. Thomas Nelson. 2010. ISBN 978-1-59555-342-3.
- Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign that Changed America. 2011. ISBN 978-1-935191-93-3.
- December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World. Thomas Nelson. 2011. ISBN 978-1-59555-457-4.
- Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan. Thomas Nelson. 2015. ISBN 978-1-59555-534-2.
- Citizen Newt: The Making of a Reagan Conservative. Thomas Nelson. 2017. ISBN 978-1-59555-448-2.