Author Taylor Branch to give Robison Lecture

March 8, 2012

Peoria, IL (March 8, 2012) Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Taylor Branch will deliver the Robison Lecture at Bradley University on March 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the Peplow Pavilion in the Hayden-Clark Alumni Center.

Best known for his work on Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, Mr. Branch’s lecture is titled, “Myth and Miracles from the King Years.” A reception and book signing will follow in the Shaheen Hall of Pride on the first floor of the Alumni Center. The Bradley Bookstore will have Branch’s books available for purchase before and after the lecture.

His book, “Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63,” won the Pulitzer Prize and numerous other awards in 1989. Two successive volumes also gained critical and popular success: “Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65,” and “At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968.” Decades later, all three books remain in demand. Some reviewers have compared the King-era trilogy, which required more than twenty-four years of intensive research, with epic histories such as Shelby Foote’s The Civil War and Robert Caro’s multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson.

Branch’s most recent book is "The Cartel: Inside the Rise and Imminent Fall of the NCAA." In 2009, Simon and Schuster published “The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President.” Far more personal than Branch’s previous books, this memoir tells of an unprecedented eight-year project to gather a sitting president’s comprehensive oral history on tape. The collaboration is a story in itself, born of mutual concern over the declining quality of raw material for presidential history. At the initiative of President Bill Clinton, Branch suspended work on the King books about once a month to meet secretly in the White House residence, nearly always late at night. They recorded candid observations for posterity. The book reveals a president up close and unguarded, perceived by an author struggling to balance many roles.

Aside from writing, Taylor Branch speaks before a variety of audiences—colleges, high schools, churches, synagogues, mosques, political and professional groups. He has discussed doctrines of nonviolence with prisoners at San Quentin as well as officers at the National War College. He has presented seminars on civil rights at Oxford University and in sixth-grade classrooms. His 2008 address at the National Cathedral marked the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s last Sunday sermon from that pulpit. In 2009, he gave the Theodore H. White Lecture on the Press and Politics at Harvard.

The Robison Endowed Lectureship Series was established by the late Mary Leslie Robison to bring distinguished journalists and journalism educators to Bradley University. She taught journalism as an assistant professor at Bradley from 1957 to 1969. The Lectureship began in 1988, two years after her death. It is hosted by Bradley’s Department of Communication.

Bradley is a private, independent university in Peoria, Illinois, offering 6,000 students the choice of more than 100 academic programs. Bradley links academic excellence, experiential learning and leadership development with an entrepreneurial spirit for a world-class education. Our size provides students extensive resources not available at most private colleges and the personal attention not commonly found at large universities.