Dumas Malone

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Dumas Malone

Dumas Malone (January 10, 1892 – December 27, 1986)[1] was an American historian, biographer, and editor noted for his six-volume biography on Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson and His Time, for which he received the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for history and his co-editorship of the twenty-volume Dictionary of American Biography. In 1983, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Early life and education[edit]

Malone was born at Coldwater, Mississippi, on January 10, 1892,[2] the son of clergyman John W. and suffragist schoolteacher, Lillian Kemp Malone.[1] He received his bachelor's degree in 1910 from Emory College (Emory University). In 1916 he received his divinity degree from Yale University. Between 1917 and 1919 during the First World War, he became a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Following the war, he returned to Yale University where he obtained his Master's (1921) and doctorate (1923) degrees. He won the John Addison Porter prize in 1923 for his dissertation The Public Life of Thomas Cooper, 1783–1839 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1926).

The linguist and historian Kemp Malone is his older brother.

He married Elizabeth Gifford in 1925, and they had two children.[1]


Malone served on the faculty of Yale University, Columbia University, and the University of Virginia, where he was the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor of History. He was a Director of the Harvard University Press and served as editor of the original Dictionary of American Biography in 1929. His first contribution to historical scholarship was a still authoritative biography of the American political commentator and educator Thomas Cooper (Yale University Press, 1926).

He is best known for his six-volume biography of Thomas Jefferson, published between 1948 and 1981, for which he earned the 1975 Pulitzer Prize. Among the many contributions of this authoritative study was Malone's inclusion in each volume of a detailed timeline of Jefferson's activities and frequent travels in his life.[3] Malone's volumes were widely praised for their lucid and graceful writing style, for their rigorous and thorough scholarship, and for their attention to Jefferson's evolving constitutional and political thought.[4]

The six volumes, originally published by Atlantic/Little, Brown, and republished by the University of Virginia Press in 2005, were:

  • Jefferson the Virginian (1948)
  • Jefferson and the Rights of Man (1951)
  • Jefferson and the Ordeal of Liberty (1962)
  • Jefferson the President: First Term, 1801–1805 (1970)
  • Jefferson the President: Second Term, 1805–1809 (1974)
  • The Sage of Monticello (1981).

Malone also published a set of lectures, Thomas Jefferson as Political Leader, (1963) with the University of California Press.

His eyesight deteriorated markedly as he became older, making it necessary to use various technologies such as voice recorders and a Visualtek to enlarge texts while writing his last two Jefferson books.[5]

Legacy and honors[edit]

Malone died on December 27, 1986 at Charlottesville, Virginia. He is buried at the University of Virginia Cemetery and Columbarium in Charlottesville.


  1. ^ a b c Pace, Eric (28 December 1986). "Dumas Malone, expert on Jefferson, is dead at 94". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  2. ^ Weil, Martin (28 December 1986). "Dumas Malone, 94, Biographer of Jefferson, Dies". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  3. ^ Peterson, Merrill (April 1988). "Dumas Malone: An Appreciation". The William and Mary Quarterly. 45 (2): 237–252. doi:10.2307/1922326. JSTOR 1922326.
  4. ^ Peterson, Merrill (Winter 1982). "Dumas Malone: the Completion of A Monument". Virginia Quarterly Review. 58 (1).
  5. ^ Johnson, David (2013). "Long Journey with Mr. Jefferson: The Life of Dumas Malone (Book Review)". The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 121 (3): 297–298. JSTOR 24392916.
  6. ^ Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1983-02-23, retrieved 2009-07-30

Further reading[edit]

  • Robert M. S. McDonald, ed. Thomas Jefferson's Lives: Biographers and the Battle for History (University of Virginia Press, 2019) pp. 219-243 online

External links[edit]