Jon Meacham, a Pulitzer Prize winning presidential historian, has been chosen to deliver a eulogy at the funeral for former President George H.W. Bush.
Meacham, who knew the former president well, also gave a speech at the funeral of Bush’s wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush.
As a presidential historian, he has previously weighed in on George H.W. Bush’s legacy, painting him as a man of a different time whose lessons are needed today.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Meacham Called George Bush a Man Who ‘Ultimately Did the Right Thing’
Meacham wrote a tribute to the former president after Bush died on November 30, 2018.
George Herbert Walker Bush, Meacham wrote in The New York Times, “who died Friday night, at 94, was the last president of the Greatest Generation, a gentleman who came of age in an ever-uglier arena, the embodiment of a postwar era of consensus that, in our time, seems as remote as Agincourt. He deserves our praise, but he also repays closer historical consideration, for his life offers an object lesson in the best that politics, which is inherently imperfect, can be.”
He added, “He’d grown up in a world where politics was a means to serve the public good, not a vehicle for self-aggrandizement or self-enrichment.”
“For every compromise or concession to party orthodoxy or political expedience on the campaign trail, in office Mr. Bush ultimately did the right thing,” wrote Meachem.
2. Jon Meacham Is a Historian & Author
Jon Meacham is an author of many books about presidents, and he is George H.W. Bush’s biographer.
“Jon Meacham is a renowned presidential historian, contributing writer to The New York Times Book Review, contributing editor at TIME, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author,” reads his website.
“Meacham’s latest book, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, is to be published by Random House on Monday, May 7, 2018.”
He also wrote a book about Bush. “His Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, published in November 2015, was a #1 New York Times bestseller and is available now in hardcover and paperback from Random House. He is currently at work on a biography of James and Dolley Madison,” his website explains.
3. Meacham Was an Editor at Newsweek & Was Born in Tennessee
According to his website, Meacham is a former book editor who was born in Tennessee.
His website describes him as a “former executive editor at Random House” who “published the letters of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and books by, among others, Al Gore, John Danforth, Clara Bingham, Mary Soames, and Charles Peters. After serving as Managing Editor of Newsweek for eight years, Meacham was the Editor of the magazine from 2006 to 2010. He is a former editor of The Washington Monthly and began his career at The Chattanooga Times.”
The website also provides some bio information for Jon Meacham, saying, “Born in Chattanooga in 1969, Meacham was educated at St. Nicholas School, The McCallie School, and graduated from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, with a degree summa cum laude in English Literature; he was salutatorian and elected to Phi Beta Kappa.”
He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, according to his website.
4. George Bush Took Meacham on a Speedboat During Their First Interview
The New York Times recalled the first meeting between the former president and Jon Meacham, reporting that it occurred around 1998 and was instigated by historian Michael Beschloss, a friend of Meacham’s.
At the time, according to The Times, Meacham was a writer for Newsweek Magazine. “Bush took both visitors on one of the hair-rising rides he loved to take on his speedboat,” The Times reports.
The story reports that the Bush family didn’t warm up to Meacham at first because they were still upset that Newsweek once labeled George H.W. Bush a “wimp.” Although he was someone with a close relationship to Bush, Barbara Bush “was known to keep a list of the parts of the book she did not like,” The Times reported.
5. Jon Meacham Is Involved in Many Charitable Endeavors
According to his website, Jon Meacham is involved in many charitable endeavors, serving as a “trustee of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, The McCallie School, and The Harpeth Hall School, Meacham chairs the National Advisory Council of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University.”
The website continues: “He has served on the vestries of St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and of Trinity Church Wall Street as well as the Board of Regents of The University of the South. The Anti-Defamation League awarded Meacham its Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Prize. In 2013 the Historical Society of Pennsylvania presented him with its Founder’s Award; in 2016 he was honored with the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute’s Spirit of Democracy Award. Meacham also received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University in 2005 and holds honorary doctorates from Middlebury College, Wake Forest University, the University of Tennessee, Dickinson College, Sewanee, and several other institutions.”