Douglas Brinkley

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Douglas Brinkley
Brinkley in 2020
Brinkley in 2020
Born (1960-12-14) December 14, 1960 (age 62)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Alma materOhio State University (BA)
Georgetown University (MA, PhD)

Douglas Brinkley (born December 14, 1960) is an American author, Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities,[1] and professor of history at Rice University. Brinkley is the history commentator for CNN, Presidential Historian for the New York Historical Society, and a contributing editor to the magazine Vanity Fair.[2] He is a public spokesperson on conservation issues. He joined the faculty of Rice University as a professor of history in 2007.[3]

Early life[edit]

Brinkley was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1960, but after his father was transferred to the Toledo, Ohio headquarters of Owens-Illinois in 1969, did his remaining elementary and secondary schooling in Perrysburg, Ohio. His mother was a high school English teacher. In fourth grade Doug memorized the Presidents, their vice presidents, as well as the opposing presidential and vice presidential candidates.


Brinkley was educated at Perrysburg High School,[4] followed by Ohio State University, from which he earned a B.A. (1982), and Georgetown University, earning an M.A. (1983) and Ph.D. (1989) in U.S. diplomatic history. He has been on the faculty of Hofstra University, the University of New Orleans, Tulane University, and Rice University.

He received an honorary doctorate for his contributions to American letters from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.[5]

Life and career[edit]

Brinkley in 2007

During his time in Georgetown, Brinkley worked as the night manager at Second Story Books in DC.[6] During the early 1990s, Brinkley taught American Arts and Politics for Hofstra aboard the Majic Bus, a roving transcontinental classroom, from which emerged the book The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey (1993). In 1993, he left Hofstra to teach at the University of New Orleans, where he taught the class again using two natural-gas fueled buses.[7] According to the Associated Press, "...if you can't tour the United States yourself, the next best thing is to go along with Douglas Brinkley aboard The Majic Bus."[8]

Brinkley worked closely with his mentor, historian Stephen E. Ambrose, then director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans. Ambrose chose Brinkley to become director of the Eisenhower Center, a post he held for five years before moving to Tulane University.

Brinkley's first book was Jean Monnet: The Path to European Unity (1992). His second was Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years (1992). He then co-edited a monograph series with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and William vanden Heuvel in the 1990s. Brinkley also edited a volume on Dean Acheson and the Making of US Foreign Policy with Paul H. Nitze (1993). In 1999, he published The Unfinished Presidency about Jimmy Carter's active and influential post-presidency.

Brinkley is the literary executor for his late friend, the journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson. He is also the editor of a three-volume collection of Thompson's letters. Brinkley is also the authorized biographer for Beat generation author Jack Kerouac, having edited Kerouac's diaries as Windblown World (2004).

In 2004, Brinkley released Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War, about U.S. Senator John Kerry's prior military service and anti-war activism during the Vietnam War. The 2004 documentary movie, Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry is loosely based on Brinkley's book.[9] Brinkley also wrote the Atlantic Monthly cover story of December 2003 on Kerry.[10]

Brinkley's book The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a record of the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast. The book won the 2007 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist. He also served as the primary historian for Spike Lee's documentary about Hurricane Katrina, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. Critic Nancy Franklin in The New Yorker noted that Brinkley made up a "large part" of the film's "conscience."[11]

Brinkley's biography of Walter Cronkite, Cronkite was published in 2012.[12] It was also selected as a Washington Post Book of the Year.

Brinkley and Johnny Depp were nominated for a Grammy for their co-authoring of the liner notes to the documentary: Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.[13] He also co-edited with Johnny Depp the long lost novel of Woody Guthrie titled House of Earth.[14]

In January 2022, Brinkley compared the 2021 United States Capitol attack to the Holocaust, the September 11 attacks, and the Attack on Pearl Harbor. "I think it is like December 7th Pearl Harbor it is like the 9/11 tragedy", said Brinkley.[15]

Congressional hearing[edit]

On November 18, 2011, during his testimony before a Congressional hearing on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Brinkley had a heated exchange with Rep. Don Young. Young, who had not been present during Brinkley's testimony, nonetheless characterized it as "garbage" and addressed Brinkley as "Dr. Rice." In response, Brinkley stated, "It's Dr. Brinkley. Rice is a university. I know you went to Yuba College and couldn't graduate." Brinkley also noted that Young's comments were made even though Young had not been present during his testimony.[16]

Brinkley continued to argue with Young throughout the hearing until the committee chairman threatened to have Brinkley removed.[17][18]

Critical reception[edit]

Stephen Ambrose called Brinkley "the best of the new generation of American historians."[19] Brinkley and Ambrose had co-authored three books.[20] Patrick Reardon of the Chicago Tribune called Brinkley America's "new past master."[21] In addition, during the 2013 inauguration coverage, CNN referred to him as "a man who knows more about the presidency than just about any human being alive."[22] In contrast, in 2006, historian Wilfred McClay in the New York Sun appraised Brinkley's scholarship as one that has failed to "put forward a single memorable idea, a single original analysis, or a single lapidary phrase."[23] Similarly, author Bill Bryson characterized Brinkley as "a minor American academic and sometime critic whose powers of observation and generosity of spirit would fit comfortably into a proton and still leave room for an echo".[24]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • In 2022, Brinkley was nominated for two Grammy Award categories; for co-producing two projects: “Black Men Are Precious” by Ethelbert Miller (Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Poetry Album), and “Fandango At The Wall In New York” by Arturo O’Farrill and The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, featuring the Congra Patria Son Jarocho Collective (Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album). [25]
  • In 2021, the Garden Club of America awarded Brinkley the Frances K. Hutchison Medal for his distinguished service to conservation efforts.[26]
  • In 2020, Brinkley's book American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race was given the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction (Longlist).[27]
  • In 2017, Brinkley was named Presidential Historian for New York Historical Society, helping to advance and articulate the mission, goals, and activities of the Historical Society's Presidency Project.[28]
  • In 2017, Brinkley won a Grammy Award Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for co-producing Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom by the Ted Nash Big Band.[29]
  • In 2016 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded him their Heritage Award.[30]
  • In 2015 he was awarded the Robin W. Winks Award for Enhancing Public Understanding of National Parks by the National Parks Conservation Association.[31]
  • Cronkite (2012), a biography of Walter Cronkite, received the Ann M. Sperber Prize for 2013.[32]
  • Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America (2009) received the National Outdoor Book Award in the History/Biography category 2009.[33]
  • Driven Patriot (1992), a biography of James Forrestal, received the Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Naval History Prize.[citation needed]
  • Brinkley received an honorary doctorate from Hofstra University at commencement in May 2012.[34]
  • In 2004, Brinkley was given the Humanist of the Year award by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.[35]
  • In 1995 he was awarded the Stuart L. Bernath Lecture Prize from the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations (Ceremony: Chicago, Illinois, April 1996).[36]

Personal life[edit]

Brinkley lives in Austin, Texas. He and his wife Anne have three children, Johnny, Benton, and Cassady. He is a member of the Century Association, the Council on Foreign Relations and Society of American Historians.


Title Year ISBN Publisher Subject matter Interviews, presentations, and reviews Comments
Original works
Driven Patriot: The Life and Times of James Forrestal 1992 ISBN 9780394577616 Alfred A. Knopf James Forrestal Written with Townsend Hoopes
Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years, 1953–71 1992 ISBN 9780300047738 Yale University Press Dean Acheson New York Times Book Review by Evan Thomas, November 8, 1992
The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey 1993 ISBN 9780151556946 Harcourt Describes Brinkley's experiences taking groups of college students on tours of historic sites around the U.S., and at least partly inspired the C-SPAN Bus program Booknotes interview with Brinkley on The Majic Bus, April 18, 1993, C-SPAN
Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy since 1938 1997 ISBN 9780140268317 Penguin Books Foreign policy of the United States Written with Stephen Ambrose
FDR and the Creation of the U.N. 1997 ISBN 9780300069303 Yale University Press Franklin D. Roosevelt, History of the United Nations, Declaration by United Nations Presentation by Hoopes and Brinkley on FDR and the Creation of the U.N., April 29, 1997, C-SPAN Written with Townsend Hoopes
American Heritage History of the United States 1998 ISBN 9780670869664 Viking Press History of the United States
The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter's Journey Beyond the White House 1999 ISBN 9780670880065 Viking Press Post-presidency of Jimmy Carter
Witness to America: An Illustrated Documentary History of the United States from the Revolution to Today, Volume 1 1999 ISBN 9780062716118 HarperCollins History of the United States Presentation by Ambrose and Brinkley on Witness to America, October 30, 1999, C-SPAN Written with Stephen Ambrose
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: The Life of Rosa Parks 2000 ISBN 9780297607083 Weidenfeld & Nicolson Rosa Parks Presentation by Brinkley on Rosa Parks, June 7, 2000, C-SPAN
The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation: From the Louisiana Purchase to Today 2002 ISBN 9780792269137 National Geographic Society The Mississippi River Presentation by Brinkley on The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation, October 30, 2002, C-SPAN Written with Stephen Ambrose
Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress, 1903–2003 2003 ISBN 9781422354568 Viking Penguin Henry Ford, The Ford Motor Company Presentation by Brinkley on Wheels for the World, May 2, 2003, C-SPAN
Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War 2004 ISBN 9780060565237 William Morrow and Company Military career of John Kerry Presentation by Brinkley on Tour of Duty, February 28, 2004, C-SPAN,
Interview with Brinkley on Tour of Duty, October 11, 2004, C-SPAN
Voices of Valor: D-Day, June 6, 1944 2004 ISBN 9780821228890 Bulfinch Press D-Day Written with Ronald J. Drez
The World War II Memorial: A Grateful Nation Remembers 2004 ISBN 9781588342102 Smithsonian Books National World War II Memorial
The Boys of Pointe du Hoc: Ronald Reagan, D-Day, and the U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion 2005 ISBN 9780060565275 William Morrow and Company D-Day, 2nd Ranger Battalion (United States), Ronald Reagan Interview with Brinkley on The Boys of Pointe du Hoc, June 2, 2005, C-SPAN
Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism 2006 ISBN 9780060776848 William Morrow and Company Michael J. McGivney Presentation by Brinkley on Parish Priest, January 19, 2006, C-SPAN Written with Julie M. Fenster
The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast 2006 ISBN 9780061124235 HarperCollins Hurricane Katrina Washington Journal interview with Brinkley on The Great Deluge, May 26, 2006, C-SPAN,

New York Times Book Review by Michiko Kakutani, May 16, 2006
Presentation by Brinkley on The Great Deluge, June 7, 2006, C-SPAN,
Presentation by Brinkley on The Great Deluge, September 30, 2006, C-SPAN

Gerald R. Ford 2007 ISBN 9780805069099 Times Books Gerald R. Ford
The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America 2009 ISBN 9780060565282 HarperCollins Environmental movement in the United States, Theodore Roosevelt Part One of Q&A interview with Brinkley on The Wilderness Warrior, June 21, 2009, C-SPAN; Part Two of Q&A interview

New York Times Book Review by Jonathan Rosen, August 6, 2009

The Quiet World: Saving Alaska's Wilderness Kingdom, 1879–1960 2011 ISBN 9780062005960 HarperCollins Interview with Brinkley on The Quiet World, October 23, 2011
Cronkite 2012 ISBN 9780061374265 HarperCollins Walter Cronkite Q&A interview with Brinkley on Cronkite, June 3, 2012, C-SPAN,
Interview with Brinkley on Cronkite, September 22, 2012, C-SPAN,
Presentation by Brinkley on Cronkite, October 27, 2012, C-SPAN
Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America 2016 ISBN 9780062089236 HarperCollins Environmental movement in the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Civilian Conservation Corps Presentation by Brinkley on Rightful Heritage, March 12, 2016, C-SPAN,
Presentation by Brinkley on Rightful Heritage, September 24, 2016, C-SPAN
American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race 2019 ISBN 9780062655066 HarperCollins Space Race, Apollo program Washington Post Book Review by Thomas Oliphant, April 4, 2019
Q&A interview with Brinkley on American Moonshot, April 7, 2019
Silent Spring Revolution: John F. Kennedy, Rachel Carson, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and the Great Environmental Awakening 2022 ISBN 9780063212916 HarperCollins Environmental movement in the United States, Rachel Carson, Silent Spring Q&A interview with Brinkley on Silent Spring Revolution, November 20, 2022Washington Post Book Review by Matthew Dallek, November 22, 2022
As editor
The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955–1967 1997 ISBN 9780679406952 Villard Hunter S. Thompson ed. with Hunter S. Thompson
Fear and Loathing in America: the Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist, 1968–1976 2000 ISBN 9780684873152 Simon & Schuster Hunter S. Thompson ed. with Hunter S. Thompson
Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac, 1947–1954 2004 ISBN 9780670033416 Viking Press Jack Kerouac
The Reagan Diaries 2007 ISBN 9781616795580 HarperCollins Ronald Reagan Interview with Brinkley on The Reagan Diaries, April 27, 2007, C-SPAN,
Interview with Brinkley on The Reagan Diaries, June 9, 2007, C-SPAN
Jack Kerouac Road Novels 1957–1960 2007 ISBN 9781598530124 Library of America Jack Kerouac, On the Road, The Dharma Bums, The Subterraneans, Tristessa, Lonesome Traveler
The Notes: Ronald Reagan's Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom 2011 ISBN 9780062065131 HarperCollins Ronald Reagan
The Nixon Tapes: 1971–1972 2014 ISBN 9780544274150 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Nixon White House tapes Gaddis, John Lewis. "Book Review: 'The Nixon Tapes' by Douglas Brinkley and Luke A. Nichter." The Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2014. ed. with Luke A. Nichter
The Nixon Tapes: 1973 2015 ISBN 9780544610538 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Nixon White House tapes Frankel, Max. "‘The Nixon Tapes: 1973,’ Edited by Douglas Brinkley and Luke A. Nichter." The New York Times, Sunday Book Review, Oct. 19, 2015. ed. with Luke A. Nichter


  1. ^ "Douglas Brinkley | Department of History | Rice University". Rice University.
  2. ^ "Brinkley's page @ HarperCollins Publishers". Archived from the original on 2014-02-19. Retrieved 2006-09-19.
  3. ^ Franz Brotzen (17 May 2007). "Author, historian Douglas Brinkley to join Rice faculty". Rice University. Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2007.
  4. ^ Tahree Lane (7 March 2009). "Historian Douglas Brinkley will speak at the Stranahan Theater". Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  5. ^ Biography of Douglas Brinkley at the site for The Great Deluge (2006) Archived November 16, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Douglas Brinkley (14 September 2017). "After the Hurricane Winds Die Down, Larry McMurtry's Houston Trilogy Lives On". New York Times. Retrieved June 20, 2021.
  7. ^ Joy Stilley (23 May 1993). "Trip results in more than travel book". Bowling Green Daily News. Retrieved 14 Feb 2011.
  8. ^ Joy Stilley (23 May 1993). "Trip results in more than travel book". Bowling Green Daily News. Retrieved 14 Feb 2011.
  9. ^ "Going Upriver: Synopsis". Archived from the original on 1 October 2004. Retrieved 14 Feb 2011.
  10. ^ Douglas Brinkley (December 2003). "Tour Of Duty". The Atlantic.
  11. ^ Nancy Franklin, "Unnatural Disasters," The New Yorker, vol. 86, no. 25 (August 30, 2010), pp. 82-83.
  12. ^ Matthews, Chris (July 6, 2012). "And That's the Way It Was". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  13. ^ "Johnny Depp Launches His Own Book Imprint". Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  14. ^ Vega, Suzanne (January 26, 2013). "Suzanne Vega on House of Earth by Woody Guthrie". Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  15. ^ Wulfsohn, Joseph A. (January 6, 2022). "Jan. 6 anniversary: MSNBC invites historian to invoke the Holocaust, backs comparisons to 9/11, Pearl Harbor". Fox News.
  16. ^ "Historian gets into it with Don Young during Congressional hearing". Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. November 19, 2011. Archived from the original on June 1, 2012. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  17. ^ "Douglas Brinkley and Rep. Don Young in committee hearing smackdown". The Washington Post. November 18, 2011. Retrieved November 18, 2011.
  18. ^ "Jobs and Drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge". C-SPAN. National Cable Satellite Corporation. Retrieved 1 July 2021.Video and transcript of testimony.
  19. ^ Brinkley @ New York State Writers Institute - University at Albany, SUNY - Archived June 20, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Douglas Brinkley curriculum vita Archived March 19, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Patrick T. Reardon, "The New Past Master," Chicago Tribune, September 27, 2001
  22. ^ CNN "Piers Morgan", January 20, 2013
  23. ^ Wilfred M. McClay, "A Flood of Words on Katrina," The New York Sun, May 15, 2006, accessed June 25, 2012.
  24. ^ Bryson, Bill (8 October 2015). The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island (First ed.). London: Doubleday. pp. 170–171. ISBN 9780857522344.
  25. ^ "Douglas Brinkley nominated for two Grammys". November 21, 2022. Retrieved November 21, 2022.
  26. ^ "Medalists: The Garden Club of America". March 9, 2021. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  27. ^ "Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction 2020". November 19, 2020. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  28. ^ "New York Historical Names Douglas Brinkley Its Presidential Historian". September 25, 2017. Retrieved March 10, 2020.
  29. ^ "Historian Brinkley wins Grammy". February 13, 2017. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
  30. ^ "USFWS/NCTC - History and Heritage". U.S. Fish and Wildlife. U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  31. ^ "Douglas Brinkley Official Website". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  32. ^ Milne, Andrew (November 20, 2013). "Douglas Brinkley Wins the Sperber Award for "Cronkite"". Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  33. ^ "Winners of the 2009 National Outdoor Book Awards". ‘”National Outdoor Book Awards”. Retrieved April 8, 2017.
  34. ^ "Hofstra University Announces 2012 Spring Commencement Activities and Speakers Sunday, May 20". May 11, 2012. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  35. ^ Milne, Andrew (February 20, 2017). "LEH Humanities Award Recipients, 1985–2015" (PDF). Retrieved Feb 20, 2017.
  36. ^ Milne, Andrew (February 20, 2017). "The Stuart L. Berth Lecture Prize". Retrieved Feb 20, 2017.

External links[edit]