William A. Henry III

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William Alan Henry III (1950–1994) was an American cultural critic and author.


Henry lived in North Plainfield, New Jersey as a young man. Henry graduated from Yale in 1971 and began his career in journalism in Boston, writing for the Boston Globe. His coverage of school desegregation in Boston won a (shared) Pulitzer Prize in 1975. He also wrote on the arts for the Globe, winning a second Pulitzer for his television criticism in 1980.[1]

In the 1980s he worked as an arts critic for Time magazine, while pursuing his interests in cultural criticism and in American politics. Among his articles for Time was a story critical of the Hollywood trade newspapers in their cozy relationship in an industry town.[2] Among his notable works were his 1984 book, Visions of America, on the American presidential campaign of that year; his 1990 video documentary of Bob Fosse, Steam Heat, which won an Emmy; and his 1992 (print) biography of Jackie Gleason, The Great One.[3]

His final, and perhaps most notable, book was In Defense of Elitism, a work of social and cultural criticism that argued that societies and cultures might be ranked on a spectrum ranging from 'egalitarianism' to 'elitism', and that the contemporary United States had moved too far away from the latter; a view he defended with reference to college education, multiculturalism, and other topics. He died of a heart attack on June 28, 1994 while the book was coming to press.[4]


  1. ^ Official website of the Pulitzer Prize
  2. ^ Trades Blow No Ill Winds, TIME, September 27, 1982
  3. ^ Henry's biographical sketch at Random House, which published In Defense of Elitism
  4. ^ Short obituary of Henry at Time magazine; long obituary of Henry at TIME Magazine

External links[edit]

  • Roger Kimball's article in The New Criterion, April 2001 references In Defense of Elitism