The community of Lincoln scholars has lost a titan. The news that David Herbert Donald passed away Sunday (May 17, 2009) at the age of 88 saddens all of us Lincoln buffs, whether we are professionals or amateurs in our pursuit of all things related to Abraham Lincoln.
Dr. Donald was, of course, the author of “Lincoln” (1995), arguably the best single-volume biography on the man. The book was praised by many for its balance between the “hero worship” found in many other works about Lincoln and the blatant attacks on Lincoln found in books written by revisionist historians. Donald strove to present a balanced history of Lincoln in his biography, and succeeded brilliantly. He was also the author of other Lincoln books, including “Lincoln’s Herndon” (a study of Lincoln’s law partner William Herndon) and “We Are Lincoln Men: Abraham Lincoln And His Friends”.
Donald was a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography, but surprisingly not for his “Lincoln” biography. In 1960, he won for “Charles Sumner And The Coming Of The Civil War”, about the senator from Massachusetts who was a noted abolitionist and Radical Republican. Donald won his second Pulitzer in 1988 for a biography on the writer Thomas Wolfe.
He was a long time professor at Harvard University, and also served in that capacity at Princeton and Johns Hopkins universities.
Rest in peace, Dr. Donald, and thank you for educating the rest of us so well.