About Bertram Wyatt-Brown

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Bertram Wyatt-Brown

What They're Famous For

One of the most distinguished historians of the American South, Wyatt-Brown is the Richard J. Milbauer Emeritus Professor of History, University of Florida. Under the guidance of C. Vann Woodward, he earned his Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University in 1963. Before arriving at the University of Florida, he taught at Colorado State University, the University of Colorado, University of Wisconsin (as a visiting assistant professor), and Case Western Reserve University. Wyatt-Brown mentored many Ph.D.'s in his long career. He chaired 6 students to their doctorates at CWRU and 29 at the University of Florida. In addition, he served on 110 graduate students' committees at various institutions during his career. In October 2005 his former students and the University of Florida put on a retirement symposium "Honoring a Master," in honor of his career as a distinguished educator, historian, and critic.

Just before retiring, he served as the Douglas Southall Freeman Professor at the University of Richmond and as the James Pinckney Harrison Professor at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of nine books, 93 essays, and nearly 150 book reviews. Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South (1982, 1983) is a classic the best known of his work. It was a finalist for the American Book Award and Pulitzer Prize. A fellow of the National Humanities Center, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment of Humanities, and the Shelby Cullom Davis Center, Princeton, he has served as President of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (1994), St. George Tucker Society (1998-99), and Southern Historical Association (2000-01). He is currently writing Honor and America's Wars: From the Revolution to Iraq. Wyatt-Brown has appeared in a number of television documentaries, and serves as series editor of the Louisiana State Press' Southern Biography Series.

Personal Anecdote

How to Lose Your First Job Teaching History: A Cautionary Tale

In August 1962, my wife Anne and I headed from Maryland for the Far West in a newly painted bottle-green Volkswagen Beetle. It had been an ugly tan color until the ministrations of Earl Schreib's paint shop at $29.95 brightened its appearance. We passed through Tennessee (to visit in my mother in Sewanee), Arkansas (where "white" and "colored" rest rooms confronted us at every rest stop), the vast spaces of Oklahoma, and eventually our destination. Just married on June 30, we were heading from Baltimore to Fort Collins, Colorado, seat of Colorado State University. It was known locally--or at least so we younger instructors liked to laugh--as the Harvard of Larimer County.

It was my first teaching job in the field of Jacksonian and Southern history. David Donald, newly arrived at Johns Hopkins, advised me by phone to seize the appointment. He assured me that he knew personally how dynamic a faculty was being constructed there. My own advisor, C. Vann Woodward, was out of reach for consultation. Lily Lavarello, the departmental secretary, told me that Dr. Woodward was in Houston, with only a "c/o Postmaster" address and no known phone number. He had already left for Yale the year before his sabbatical. For his last student at Hopkins, however, he did return in January 1963 to preside over my final dissertation exam. Thus, in lieu of any other advice, Donald's seemed wise. The position would include tenure at some point, but all new faculty contracts at CSU were limited to only one year with expected renewals thereafter. For both Anne and me, it seemed at the time quite adventuresome, even thrilling, to leave the familiar East Coast for the unknown desert West.

Sheltered under the Rockies, Fort Collins, we quickly discovered, was at that time a typically American small town. Apart from CSU, its economic life depended upon the sale and processing of sugar beets, wheat, and other agricultural products. Conservative, devoutly Protestant, and wary of undergraduate inclinations, the town fathers required that to buy anything more potent than 3.2 beer you had

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