Douglas Brinkley (born December 14, 1960) is an American author, professor of history at Rice University and a fellow at the
James Baker Institute for Public Policy. Brinkley is the history commentator for CBS News and a contributing editor to the magazines Vanity Fair and American Heritage. A public spokesperson on
conservation issues, Brinkley serves as an editor at Audubon Magazine. He joined the faculty of Rice University as a professor of history in 2007. Brinkley was born in Atlanta, Georgia.
His parents were high school teachers. Raised in Perrysburg, Ohio, he earned his B.A. from Ohio State University (1982), and his M.A. (1983) and Ph.D. (1989) from Georgetown University in U.S. diplomatic history. He has been on the faculty of Hofstra University, the University of New Orleans, Tulane University, and Rice University. He received an honorary doctorate for his contributions to American letters from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.
During the early 1990s, Brinkley taught American Arts and Politics for Hofstra aboard the Majic Bus [sic], a roving transcontinental classroom, from which emerged the book, The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey (1993). In 1993, he left Hofstra to teach at the University of New Orleans, where he taught the class again using two natural-gas fueled buses. According to the Associated Press, "...if you can't tour the United States yourself, the next best thing is to go along with Douglas Brinkley aboard The Majic Bus." Brinkley worked closely with his mentor, historian Stephen E. Ambrose, then director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans. Ambrose chose Brinkley to become director of the Eisenhower Center, a post he held for five years before moving to Tulane University.
Brinkley’s first book was Jean Monnet: The Path to European Unity (1992). The publication of Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years (1992) brought Brinkley popular acclaim. He then co-edited a monograph series with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and William vanden Heuvel in the 1990s. Brinkley also edited a volume on Dean Acheson and the Making of US Foreign Policy with Paul H. Nitze (1993). Brinkley is the literary executor for his late friend, the journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson. He is also the editor of a three-volume collection of Thompson's letters. Brinkley is also the authorized biographer for Beat generation author Jack Kerouac, having edited Kerouac's diaries as Windblown World (2004). He has also written profiles of popular writers, Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, and Ken Kesey for Rolling Stone magazine. In 2009, Brinkley interviewed Bob Dylan in Paris and Amsterdam for a Rolling Stone cover story.
In 2004, Brinkley released Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War, about U.S. Senator John Kerry's military service and anti-war activism during the Vietnam War. The 2004 documentary movie, "Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry," is loosely based on Brinkley's book. Brinkley also wrote the Atlantic Monthly cover story of December 2003 on Kerry. Brinkley's book, The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is a record of the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast. The book won the 2007 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and was a Los Angeles Times book prize finalist. He also served as the primary historian for Spike Lee's documentary about Hurricane Katrina, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. Critic Nancy Franklin in The New Yorker noted that Brinkley made up a "large part" of the film's "conscience."
Brinkley's biography of Walter Cronkite, Cronkite was published in 2012. It was also selected as a Washington Post Book of the Year. Brinkley and Johnny Depp were nominated for a Grammy for their co-authoring of the liner notes to the documentary: Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. He also co-edited with Johnny Depp the long lost novel of Woody Guthrie titled House of Earth. On November 18, 2011, during his testimony before a Congressional hearing on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Brinkley had a heated exchange with Rep. Don Young. Young, who had not been present during Brinkley’s testimony, nonetheless characterized Brinkley's testimony as "garbage" and addressed Brinkley as "Dr. Rice." In response, Brinkley stated, "It's Dr. Brinkley. Rice is a university. I know you went to Yuba College and couldn't graduate." Brinkley also noted that Young's comments were made even though Young had not been present during his testimony.
Stephen Ambrose, Brinkley's mentor at the University of New Orleans, called Brinkley "the best of the new generation of American historians." Brinkley and Ambrose had co-authored three books. Patrick Reardon of the Chicago Tribune called Brinkley America's "new past master." In addition during the 2013 inauguration coverage CNN referred to Mr. Brinkley as ""a man who knows more about the presidency than just about any human being alive." In contrast in 2006, historian Wilfred McClay in the New York Sun appraised Brinkley's scholarship as one that has failed to "put forward a single memorable idea, a single original analysis, or a single lapidary phrase." Driven Patriot (1992), a biography of James Forrestal, received the Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Naval History Prize.
Dr. Brinkley received an honorary doctorate at Hofstra University’s May 2012 graduate commencement ceremony. Brinkley lives in Austin, Texas. He and his wife Anne have three children, Johnny, Benton, and Cassady. He is a member of the Century Association, the Council on Foreign Relations and Society of American Historians.
- Driven Patriot: The Life and Times of James Forrestal (1992). With Townsend Hoopes
- Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years, 1953-71 (1992)
- The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey (1993) It describes his experiences taking groups of college students on tours of historic sites around the U.S. and at least partly inspired the C-SPAN Bus program
- The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967 (1997) ed.
- Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy since 1938 (1997), New York: Penguin Books ISBN 0-14-026831-6 with Stephen Ambrose
- FDR and the Creation of the U.N. (1997) With Townsend Hoopes
- American Heritage History of the United States (1998)
- The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter's Journey Beyond the White House (1999)
- Witness to America (1999) With Stephen Ambrose, ISBN 9780062716118; 2010: ISBN 0061990280
- Fear and Loathing in America: the Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist, 1968-1976 (2000) ed.
- Rosa Parks (2000)
- The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation: From the Louisiana Purchase to Today (2002) With Stephen Ambrose, ISBN 0792269136
- Wheels for the World : Henry Ford, His Company, and A Century of Progress, 1903-2003 (2003)
- Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War (2004)
- Voices of Valor : D-Day, June 6, 1944 (2004) With Ronald J. Drez
- Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac, 1947-1954 (2004) ed.
- The World War II Memorial: A Grateful Nation Remembers (2004)
- The Boys of Pointe du Hoc: Ronald Reagan, D-Day, and the U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion (2005)
- Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism (2006) With Julie M. Fenster
- The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2006)
- The Reagan Diaries (2007) ed.
- Jack Kerouac Road Novels 1957-1960 (2007) ed.
- Gerald R. Ford (2007)
- The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America (2009)
- The Quiet World: Saving Alaska's Wilderness Kingdom, 1879-1960 (2011)
- Cronkite (2012)
- Forester-In-Chief: Franklin D. Roosevelt, the CCC and Wild America (Estimated 2014)
- Silent Spring Revolution: John F. Kennedy, Rachel Carson, Stewart Udall, and the Environmental Movement, 1961-1964 (Estimated 2015)