Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI WRITERS: David Halberstam


David Halberstam David Halberstam, photo by Porter Gifford/Scribner 1934 -2007

Major Works

  • The Noblest Roman 1961 (set in West Point, MS)
  • The Making Of  A Quagmire 1965
  • One Very Hot Day 1968
  • The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert Kennedy 1969
  • Ho 1971
  • The Best and the Brightest 1972
  • The Powers That Be 1979
  • The Breaks of The Game 1981
  • The Reckoning 1986
  • Summer of '49 1989
  • The Next Century 1991
  • October 1964 1994
  • The Amateurs:The Story of Four Young Men and Their Quest for an Olympic Gold Medal 1996
  • The Fifties 1996
  • The Children 1998
  • Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan And The World He Made 1999
  • Best American Sports Writing 1991
  • The Next Century 1991
  • Baseball: The Perfect Game (with Peter Richmond, and Danielle Weil) 1992
  • ESPN Sport Century (with Chris Berman, and Michael MacCambridge) 1999
  • War in a Time of Peace 2002
  • Firehouse 2002 (about firemen involved in 9/11 tragedy)
  • The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship 2003
  • The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War 2007
  • Defining a Nation: Our America and the Source of Its Strength 2003
  • Everything They Had: Sportswriting from David Halberstam May 8, 2008, is publication date

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Biography of David Halberstam 1934-2007
By Sharon Clark (SHS) 2002

David Halberstam is a marvelous figure in American journalism.  He is one of the nation's most famous authors. David Halberstam was born on April 10, 1934, in New York.  He came from a middle-class family. His parents were Charles and Blanche Halberstam.  Halberstam's father was a surgeon, and his mother was a teacher.  His older brother Michael became a well-known cardiologist in Washington. (In 1980, Michael Halberstam was shot in his home and killed by an intruder). After high school, David Halberstam attended Harvard University where he became the managing editor of the Daily Harvard Crimson. He graduated in 1955 with a degree in journalism and took his first job in West Point, Mississippi, at the Daily Times Leader. Although fiction, his first book The Noblest Roman was based on actual events which occurred in West Point, Mississippi.

In 1964 David Halberstam won a Pulitzer Prize for his international reporting of the early years of the Vietnam War, including the 1963 overthrow of South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem.

On June 13, 1965, he married Elzbieta Tehizevska, an actress he met while he was assigned to the Times bureau in Warsaw. The marriage did not last long. In 1979, he married Jean Sandness, then a writer, with whom he had a daughter Julia.

David Halberstam is well-known for his writing and reporting on the Civil Rights Movement.  During the late 50's and early 60's at the Nashville Tennesseanhe covered stories and activities related to the Civil Rights Movement.   Halberstam was assigned to cover the first sit-ins in February, 1960, and he used his experiences to trace the Civil Rights Movement from 1960 to 1965.   His book The Children is based on these experiences. He looks at the events through the perspective of the student activists who participated in these sit-ins.  Those students’ activists included John Lewis, Marion Barry, Jim Bevel, Diane Nash, Gloria, Johnson-Powell, and Bernard Layfayette.  In David Halberstam's book, The Children, he depicts the sit-ins of the young black men and women at a downtown restaurant in Nashville as Halberstam was on the scene to report this historic event.  He reported on the courageous dignity and awesome inner strength of the young black men and women. {Wildin}

The Best and Brightest by David Halberstam A few years later, while working for The New York Times, Halberstam's career focused on dispatching and reporting on the Vietnam War.  As a war correspondent, Halberstam traveled overseas, first to Congo and then to Vietnam {Bacevich 62}.  In 1964, Halberstam won the Pulitzer Prize at the age of thirty for his writing and reporting on the Vietnam War.  After the Vietnam War, Halberstam published a book called The Making of A Quagmire.  This book is known as an "exceptional piece of reporting on the vivid, concise, and hard-hitting truth about Vietnam War" (Bacevich 62}.

In 1967 he left the Times and went on to write more than twenty-five books which covered such topics as the Vietnam War, civil rights, the auto industry, firemen, Michael Jordan, and a baseball pennant race. His 2002 best-seller, War in a Time of Peace, was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. Many of his books were best sellers. In all, he has received more than sixteen honorary degrees, spoken at many universities, and appeared on numerous national television shows. His articles have appeared in major journals and magazinesSharon Clark (SHS).

For nearly fifty years, Halberstam continued to focus his writing on interesting subjects.   In 1996 Halberstam wrote The Amateurs in which he tells about four athletes competing for the 1984 Olympic Gold Metal in rowing.  In 1998 he wrote a book called Playing For Keeps about the famous basketball player. David Halberstam's writing has inspired, educated and entertained many readers.

2008 UPDATE: David Halberstam was killed April 23, 2007, in a car crash south of San Francisco. He was seventy-three years old, and at the time of his death was living in Manhattan. Once described by the New Yorker as" a Jewish kid from the Bronx", Halberstam was on his way to interview Y. A. Tittle, the former New York Giants quarterback, for a book about the 1958 championship game between the Giants and the Baltimore Colts.

In October 2007, the University of Mississippi concluded its Journalism Week by honoring the memory of David Halberstam, who was a long-time supporter of Teach for America and donated his 2005 Commencement address honorarium to the organization. Halberstam's wife Jean and daughter Julia began a David Halberstam Endowment Fund Teach for America-Delta after his death. Daugher Julia Halberstam had taught in Greenville, Mississippi, in 2002-2004. In his commencement speech at Ole Miss, Halberstam said that he learned "about the nobility of people."

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A Review of The Amateurs The Amateurs by David Halberstam
by Sharon Clark (SHS)

The Amateurs is an exciting book by David Halberstam.  The author gives vivid details about the people and the goals they are trying to accomplish.  Like many of his works, this book tells a true story about athletes competing for the 1984 Olympic Gold Medal.  The subject is dramatic and keeps the reader entertained to the end of the story. Halberstam has an interesting style of writing.  The people are all intellectuals with some of the same dreams. The ultimate goal is to represent the United States in the 1984 Olympic and to win the gold medal.  Some of the people are very much alike in their social life and with their hobbies and training routines. 

The people whose story this is include Tiff  Wood,  John Biglow, Joe Bouscaren and Charley Altekruse.  These scullers are friends, and,  like the majority of friends, there is a little bit of jealousy among them.  Halberstam lets the athletes and their actions create the suspense.  For instance, the things the they do before racing will keep you wondering who is going to win.  The winner can be any of the athletes because all of them are professional at this sport, and all of them are very competitive and skillful in rowing.  As it has been for years, most of the athletes spend their extra time doing single and double sculls for practice.  The goal is to get stronger and better mentally and physically.  Halberstam's narrative tells how the they feel about not having much of a social life because of their dedication and desires to be successful as a professional rower.

The setting is in Princeton, New Jersey, and it takes place in 1984, with a single scull trials that take place on Lake Carnegie. Halberstam shows how important it is to each contestant to win the Olympic Gold Metal.  The winner of the trials will represent the United States against other competitors around the world.  The losers will be left with the knowledge of knowing they were not the best, but there is always a next time.

I enjoyed reading this book because it gave me a new perspective about rowing and what it takes to win an Olympic Gold Medal.  Before reading this book, I knew very little about the sport of rowing.  After reading this book, I can appreciate this sport because the author gives life to the athletes and shows the fun and exciting aspects of rowing.  The author leaves out no details about how dedicated the athletes were to rowing.

I think this is a great book to read just for entertainment and inspiration.  It can be a teaching tool for future athletes.  The book can show how individuals need to set goals and keep working at accomplishing those goals. The book is not boring and is very easy to read.  I recommend this book for all readers young and old.

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Timeline

1934--April 10, David Halberstam was born in New York

1955--Halberstam graduated from Harvard University

1957--Halberstam moved to West Point, Mississippi

1964--He won the Pulitzer Prize for work on Vietnam

1965--He married Elizabethan Tehizevska

1965--The Making Of A Quagmire was published 

1968--One Very Hot Day was published

1969--The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert Kennedy was published

1972--The Best and the Brightest was published

1979--The Powers That Be was published

1981--The Breaks of The Game was published

1986--The Reckoning was published {best seller}

1989--Summer of '49 was published {best seller}

1991--The Next Century was published

1993--The Fifties was published {best seller}

1994--October 1964 was published 

1996--The Amateurs was published

1998--The Children was published

1999--Playing For Keeps: Michael Jordan and The World He Made was published

2002--War in a Time of Peace was published

2007--David Halberstam was killed in a car accident at age 73 in California

2007--The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War published after his death

2008--Everything They Had: Sportswriting from David Halberstam May 8 is publication date

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Related Websites

Academy of Achievement's 1994 interview with David Halberstam.

Book Page presents interview entitled "Halberstam rediscovers our  nation's peaceful warriors."

"Our vote for the Hall of Fame:  David Halberstam" by James Buckley Jr.

C-Span American Writers presents a lesson plan for The Best and the Brightest and info about Halberstam.

Barnes and Noble's Meet the Writers says, "One of the most popular and imitated nonfiction writers around, David Halberstam writes books that fuse narrative storytelling with investigative reporting."

The Salon interviews David Halberstam about  his new book, Playing for  Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made.

New York Times has drawing of Halberstam by David Levine.

David Halberstam on CNN in 2003

Royce Carlton Speakers gives info on Halberstam.

Summary of The Children. It tells the story of the civil rights movement through the lives of some of the young people-- the "Children"-- who became early revolutionaries in Nashville in the 1960's. 

New York Times obituary for David Halberstam.

CNN reports the death of Halberstam.

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Bibliography

Bacevich, Andrew. "Fog of Wars." National Rev. of War in a Time of Peace by David Halberstam. National Review 5 Nov. 2001: 53 {21}, 62.

Halberstam, David. "Birth of a Icon." Advertising Age Rev. of Playing For Keeps by David Halberstam. Advertising 25 Jan. 1999: 70{4}, 22.

Reid-Merritt, Patricia. "Watching The Children of the Movement Grow." by David Halberstam. Black Issues in Higher Education, 9 Sept. 1998: 15{15}, 39.

Wildin, Rowena. "Children." Magill Rev. of Magill Book Rev. The Children by David Halberstam 5 Jan. 1999.

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Last updated in January 2008
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