David McCullough Wins Pulitzer for Adams Book


David McCullough, the eminent biographer and historian who is a year-round resident of the Vineyard, won the Pulitzer Prize this week for his biography of John Adams.

"This is as thrilling as anything that has happened to me in my working life, and it came on a perfect day," Mr. McCullough enthused on Monday afternoon just after the news went out about the prizes. The announcement came on the birthday of Mr. McCullough's wife Rosalee, who is his closest confidante and first manuscript reader.

Mr. McCullough spent the rest of the day fielding telephone calls from friends and well-wishers while he cooked spaghetti for a family birthday dinner that night.

Mr. McCullough does all of his writing on a 1942 Royal typewriter in a small writing shack behind his home on Music street in West Tisbury.

John Adams, a 751-page biography of the nation's second president, has been on the best-seller list since it first came out last May. The book was the talk of reading circles on the Vineyard last summer, and Mr. McCullough said the Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven alone sold more than 3,000 copies of the John Adams biography.

This marks the second Pulitzer Prize for Mr. McCullough, who also won the prize in 1993 for Truman, a biography of Harry Truman published in 1992.

But he said this week that the Pulitzer Prize for John Adams struck a key chord.

"I have been very fascinated with my subjects over the years, but the six and a half years I spent working on this book were the most enjoyable of my writing life," Mr. McCullough said. "I felt it was my best work, so to be so recognized is very very gratifying.

"I love the fact that it's a New England story, and I adore the people of the Massachusetts Historical Society. This means a great deal," he added.

The accolades for Mr. McCullough rang around the country this week. At West Tisbury's annual town meeting on Tuesday night, voters began the session with a warm round of applause. U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy issued a statement from his Washington office calling Mr. McCullough "a gifted writer who has broadened scholarship and expanded our understanding of American history."

Among Mr. McCullough's other books is The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1879-1914, which was published in 1977 and won the National Book Award, the Francis Parkman Award from the Society of American Historians, and the Cornelius Ryan Award.

Mornings on Horseback, a biography of Theodore Roosevelt published in 1981, won the American Book Award and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. The Great Bridge, the story of the Brooklyn Bridge, was published in 1972. His first book was The Johnstown Flood, published in 1968.

He has received numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities, and has narrated a number of acclaimed documentary films, including The Civil War. Between 1984 and 1988, he was the host of the television series Smithsonian World, and in the 1980s he was the host of the PBS series The American Experience.

The award includes a $7,500 cash prize.

Mr. McCullough said he is currently working on a book about the American Revolution.