Former Chattanoogan Meacham Claims Prestigious Pulitzer Prize

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 - by John Shearer

Former Chattanooogan and 1987 McCallie School alumnus Jon Meacham was named the winner of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for biography Monday.

The Newsweek magazine editor was honored for his 2008 biography, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House.

A frequent speaker in Chattanooga, Mr. Meacham had signed copies of the book last Dec. 4 at Rock Point Books downtown.

In announcing the award, the Pulitzer committee cited the book as an “unlikely portrait of a not always admirable democrat, but a pivotal president, written with an agile prose that brings the Jackson saga to life.”

Mr. Meacham attended St. Nicholas School and then the University of the South at Sewanee after graduating from McCallie. At Sewanee, he majored in English literature and was the salutatorian.

The current New Yorker – whose grandfather was the late former Chattanooga City Court Judge and writer Ellis Meacham – started his professional journalism career with the Chattanooga Times in the early 1990s.

He began working for Newsweek as a writer in 1995.

His other books include such New York Times bestsellers as Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship, and American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation.

He also wrote Voices In Our Blood: America’s Best on the Civil Rights Movement.

Mr. Meacham also appears regularly as a television commentator.

He is one of several Chattanoogans or former Chattanoogans to have won the Pulitzer Prize, although apparently the first to receive one for a book.

Fellow McCallie alumnus Ralph McGill received the prize for a 1958 editorial column he wrote denouncing the bombing of a Jewish temple in Atlanta while he was editor of the Atlanta Constitution.

Wendell Rawls, a 1959 graduate of Baylor School, earned one in 1977 for his investigative reporting of a mental hospital in Pennsylvania while with the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Bill Dedman, who also graduated from Baylor and formerly worked for the Chattanooga Times and the Chattanooga News-Free Press, earned a Pulitzer in 1989 for an investigative series on lending practices involving minorities while he was with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Photographer Robin Hood was the Chattanooga Free Press’ only Pulitzer winner when he was honored in 1977 for his feature photograph of a legless Vietnam veteran at the 1976 Armed Forces Day Parade in Chattanooga.

Charles Bartlett received a Pulitzer in 1956 while working for the Washington Bureau of the Chattanooga Times. The former Lookout Mountain resident – who was also credited with introducing John F. Kennedy and Jackie Bouvier – had written a series of stories pointing out the Harold Talbott, the secretary of the Air Force, had an interest in a consulting firm that had several clients with government contracts.

A commissioned musical tribute to former Chattanooga composer Roland Hayes by George Walker won the music Pulitzer in 1996, and University of Georgia professor Edward Larson’s book about the Dayton, Tenn., Scopes Trial – Summer for the Gods: the Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion -- won the history Pulitzer Prize in 1998.

Mr. Meacham’s prize includes a $10,000 gift.

Jcshearer2@comcast.net


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