Historian David McCullough dead at 89

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David McCullough
David McCullough hoto by Stephen Rose/Getty Images

Bestselling historian David McCullough died Sunday at the age of 89 at his home in Hingham, Massachusetts, his daughter confirmed. She did not specify a cause of death.

McCullough was born in Pittsburgh in 1933, graduated from Yale in 1955, and released his first book — a history of an 1889 flood that killed over 2,000 people in Johnstown, Pennsylvania — in 1968.

His 2001 biography of John Adams topped The New York Times' best-seller list the week of its release and inspired an HBO miniseries starring Paul Giamatti. His 1992 biography of Harry Truman topped the list for 43 weeks and was the basis for an HBO film starring Gary Sinise.

McCullough's other works included histories of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Panama Canal, and the 1941 Arcadia Conference between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. His final book, The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West, sparked controversy when it was released in 2019, with New York Times reviewer Joyce E. Chaplin accusing McCullough of failing to grapple sufficiently with the settlers' violence against Native Americans.

In addition to his histories, McCullough provided narration for the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War and the 2003 film Seabiscuit and hosted the television series American Experience and Smithsonian World.

McCullough is survived by a brother, five children, 19 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. His wife, Rosalee, died in June, also at the age of 89.

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