David McCullough Biography

(American Historian & Author)

Birthday: July 7, 1933 (Cancer)

Born In: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.

David Gaub McCullough, known as the ‘master of the art of narrative history’, was an American writer, narrator, historian and lecturer. For his matchless historical writing he won prestigious awards like the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. His contribution to the field of American history, whether about the Johnstown Flood or the creation of Panama Canal or on the life of Theodore Roosevelt or on the contributions of the second President of America John Adams, had been bigger than any other historical writer, which is why he received America’s highest civilian award, namely, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Many of McCullough’s writings have been adapted into television movies or miniseries by HBO, like, ‘Truman’, ‘John Adams’, etc. Because of his impeccable knowledge of American history and hold over his narrative skills, he had narrated many documentaries and had been a host on the ‘American Experience’ for over twelve years. What started for him as a literary interest at Yale was soon converted into a love for research and a passion to spread the details of American history all over the world, bound together with his literary and writing skills.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: David Gaub McCullough

Died At Age: 89


Spouse/Ex-: Rosalee Ingram Barnes (m. 1954)

father: Christian Hax McCullough

mother: Ruth McCullough

children: David McCullough Jr.

Born Country: United States

Quotes By David McCullough Historians

Died on: August 7, 2022

place of death: Hingham, Massachusetts, U.S.

U.S. State: Pennsylvania

City: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

More Facts

education: Yale University, Shady Side Academy

awards: - National Book Award
- Pulitzer Prize
2006 - Presidential Medal of Freedom

- highest civilian award
- two Francis Parkman Prizes
- Los Angeles Times Book Award
- New York Public Library's Literary Lion Award
1995 - Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award
- Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography
- Jefferson Lecture
- Helmerich Award
- New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year
- St. Louis Literary Award
- National Book Award for History
- Quill Award for History/current events/politics
- National Book Award for Autobiography/Biography (Hardcover)
- Ambassador Book Award for Biography & Autobiography
- Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

Childhood & Early Life

David McCullough was born on July 7, 1933, in Pennsylvania to Ruth and Christian Hax McCullough. He was one of the four sons and he described his childhood as fulfilling and happy. He was educated in Pennsylvania at Linden Avenue Grade School and Shady Side Academy.

McCullough attended the Yale University in 1951, to study English literature, which he considered to be a privilege in his life as he met many known literary figures like John O’Hara, Thornton Wilder, Robert Penn Warren, etc. there.

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Right after completing his graduation in 1955, McCullough found himself working as a trainee at ‘Sports Illustrated’ in the New York City. After gaining some experience there, he worked as an editor and writer for the United States Information Agency.

He worked in the field of writing and editing for the next twelve years and while working in ‘American Heritage’ he wrote ‘The Johstown Flood’ in 1968, a chronicle of one of the most disastrous floods in the US history.

McCullough decided to become a fulltime writer and was offered to write books on San Francisco earthquake and Great Chicago Fire but instead he decided to write on the history of Brooklyn Bridge - ‘The Great Bridge’ in 1972.
In 1977, he released his book ‘The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal’. It won the National Book Award in History, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award and the Cornelius Ryan Award.

In 1991, his book ‘Brave Companions: Portraits in History’, a compilation of essays that he wrote over the period of twenty years, essays about Louis Agassiz, Alexander von Humboldt, Frederic Remington, etc.

He published his second biography titled ‘Truman’ in 1993. The book got him the first Pulitzer Prize of his life. It also got him The Colonial Dames of America Annual Book Award and ‘Truman’ was adapted into a telefilm by HBO.

Encouraged by his Pulitzer Prize, McCullough wrote another biography on the Founding Father and the second US President, ‘John Adams’ in 2002. He received second Pulitzer Prize for the book and it was also adapted in to TV miniseries by HBO.

With the success of ‘John Adams’, he wrote a companion piece to it under the title ‘1776’ in 2005, mostly concentrating on the events that started the American Revolution. It became the number one bestseller in the US.
While McCullough was considering writing a sequel to ‘1776’, he signed a contract with Simon & Schuster and published ‘The Greater Journey’ in 2011. The book is about the great Americans who went on the journey to Paris.
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Major Work
McCullough’s ‘The Path Between the Seas’ is considered as one of his major works for it was his first intricately detailed history book which received the National Book Award in History, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Cornelius Ryan Award, etc.
Award & Achievements

McCullough received many prestigious awards for he is regarded as the ‘master of the art of narrative history’. He earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, etc.

Personal Life, Legacy & Death

McCullough met his wife Rosalee Barnes when he was merely seventeen, in Pittsburgh. They had five children together and were grandparents to eighteen grandchildren. He lived in Boston with his wife and enjoyed sports, history and art.


David McCullough died on August 7, 2022, after a period of failing health at his home in Hingham. He was 89.


McCullough had earned around 40 honorary degrees.

He did English honors from Yale because he thought he would become a fiction writer or a playwright.

McCullough had narrated many documentaries like, ‘The Civil War’, ‘The Statue of Liberty’ and ‘The Congress’.

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See the events in life of David McCullough in Chronological Order

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