Blogs > Ronald L. Feinman > William Leuchtenburg and Bernard Weisberger Achieve a New Honor: Centenarians

Feb 22, 2023

William Leuchtenburg and Bernard Weisberger Achieve a New Honor: Centenarians

tags: historians,New Deal,tributes

Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman-Littlefield Publishers 2015).  A paperback edition is now available.

A major celebration is in order as two eminent and prolific American historians, William E. Leuchtenburg (born September 28, 1922) and Bernard A. Weisberger (born August 15, 1922), reached the age of 100 last year.

I had the opportunity decades ago to meet both of them at conferences of the American Historical Association, and even then, felt so privileged to be in the company, albeit briefly, of these brilliant contributors to American historical writing.

Leuchtenburg is the preeminent living scholar of the Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. His Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940 (1963) won the Bancroft Prize in 1964, as well as the Francis Parkman Prize. This book had an impact on me as a college student, and motivated me to conduct research and complete a PhD dissertation under Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr, at the City University of New York Graduate School. This became my first book under the title Twilight of Progressivism: The Western Republican Senators and the New Deal (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981).

Leuchtenburg has published more than a dozen distinguished works, including: The Perils of Prosperity: 1914-1932 (1958); A Troubled Feast: American Society Since 1945 (1973); The Supreme Court Reborn: The Constitutional Revolution in the Age of Roosevelt (1996); In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to Barack Obama (4th Revised Edition, 2009); The FDR Years: On Roosevelt and His Legacy (1997); The White House Looks South: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson (2005);  Herbert Hoover (The American Presidents Series, 2006); and The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton (2015), in addition to textbook surveys coauthored with others; and two volumes in The LIFE History of the United States (1963).

Leuchtenburg is a past president of the American Historical Association (1991), of the Organization of American Historians (1985-1986), and of the Society of American Historians (1978-1981). He taught at Columbia University for nearly three decades, and then became a member of the faculty at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1982, retiring in 2002 as the William Rand Kenan Jr. Distinguished Emeritus Professor.  He also collaborated with documentarian Ken Burns on many of his film projects for PBS.  He held the Harmsworth Chair at Oxford University, and was a visiting professor at Harvard, Cornell, William and Mary, and other American universities.

Bernard Weisberger has had a massive impact on the study of American history, having taught at Wayne State University, the University of Chicago, University of Rochester, and Vassar College.  Receiving his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, he has been a prolific writer, including decades of involvement with American Heritage Magazine. He has been the author of more than a dozen books, and worked on documentaries with Bill Moyers and Ken Burns for PBS.  His article on the Reconstruction Period, published in the Journal of Southern History in 1959 under the title “The Dark and Bloody Ground of Reconstruction Historiography” revolutionized the study of the post Civil War period, and won the Charles Ramsdell Prize.

His most significant varied published works include Booker T. Washington (1973), The Dream Maker: William C. Durant, Founder of General Motors (1979), The American Heritage History of the American People (1971), Many People, One Nation (1987) The La Follettes of Wisconsin: Love and Politics in Progressive America (1994), America Afire: Jefferson, Adams, and the Revolutionary Election of 1800 (2000), and When Chicago Ruled Baseball: The Cubs-White Sox World Series of 1906 (2006).

Weisberger was also a social activist, participating in the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965, along with many other political engagements, and is a member of the Authors League of America and the Society of American Historians.

Both of these scholars are highly honored and respected, as having contributed so much to the field of American historical research.  They have been a true gift to the historical profession, and one can hope that they will live on into the future.

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