Campus & Community

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. dies at 89

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Harvard historian, Pulitzer Prize winner was special assistant to JFK

Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., a member of Harvard’s History Department from 1954 until 1962, died Feb. 27 in New York City. He was 89.

A 1938 graduate of Harvard College, Schlesinger was a Henry Fellow at Peterhouse, Cambridge University, from 1938 to 1939, and a member of the Society of Fellows at Harvard from 1939 to 1942.

He took a leave of absence from the Harvard faculty in 1961 to serve as a special assistant to President John F. Kennedy. After Kennedy’s death, he wrote an account of his administration, ”A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House,” winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1966.

“Arthur Schlesinger made history – as a brilliant historian and as an influential presidential adviser,” said Radcliffe Dean and Harvard President-elect Drew G. Faust. “He has also been a great friend to Harvard, and it has been my privilege to witness firsthand his devotion to the Radcliffe Institute’s Elizabeth and Arthur M. Schlesinger Library on the History of Women, named in honor of his parents. I will miss his sharp intelligence, his delightful wit, and his broad understanding of times past and present.”

A prolific author, Schlesinger first attracted national attention as a historian with his 1945 book on President Andrew Jackson, published when Schlesinger was 27. “The Age of Jackson” won the Pulitzer Prize for history and sold more than 90,000 copies in its first year. Schlesinger followed up that triumph with “The Age of Roosevelt,” a three-volume history of the Franklin Roosevelt administration. In addition to his many books, he wrote numerous articles and often appeared on television as a political commentator.

In 1966, he was a visiting fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He then became the Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities at the Graduate School of the City University of New York, retiring in 1996. Schlesinger was the recipient of numerous awards, including the 1957 Francis Parkman Prize for History and the Gold Medal for History from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1967. He received an honorary degree from Harvard in 2001.

Schlesinger’s father, Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr., was also a historian and a Harvard faculty member. He joined the faculty in 1924 and later became chairman of the History Department. He retired in 1954 and died in 1965.