2010 Notable Authors

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James Magnuson 
Gerald Morris
Kenneth M. Stampp

James Magnuson, 1941-

James Magnuson was born in 1941 and grew up in a series of small towns in Wisconsin and North Dakota. He completed a PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 1964, and was able to eke out a living as a playwright, street theatre director and social worker in New York City in the 1960s. In 1974, when Magnuson was in his early thirties, he published his first novel, Without Barbarians. Although he published four more novels in the next ten years, (The Rundown, Orphan Train, Open Season, and Money Mountain), received an NEA grant for fiction in 1978, and even had a couple of books optioned for movies, Magnuson found himself close to broke, with a wife and two small children to support, at the start of the 1980s.

In 1985, Magnuson moved his family to Austin, Texas, where he was Assistant Professor of English at the University of Texas until 1989. Magnuson says that his first struggling years in Austin served as the basis for his novel Windfall, published in 1999. In 1991, Magnuson moved to Los Angeles, where he wrote screen plays and was a consultant to shows like “Knot's Landing.” He says, "My fortunes, like those of the main character in Windfall, changed dramatically when, in 1991, I went to Los Angeles…. It wasn't quite like finding seven coolers filled with fifty dollar bills under a feed store, but it was close."

Magnuson returned to Texas in the 1990s, and, since 1994, he has been director of the Michener Center for Writers, regarded as one of the top MFA programs for creative writing in the country. The committee loved reading Magnuson’s books, and it was his evident commitment to the craft of writing – his own, as well as that of others – that we felt made him worthy of the award.

Gerald Morris, 1963- 

Gerald Morris, born to missionary parents in 1963, spent much of his childhood in Singapore.  As he grew older, Morris never felt he belonged to a particular culture, and said finding his career felt much the same way:

I was going to be a minister, a teacher, or a writer, depending on which day you asked me. Even as I went to college, my career picture never really became clear. I had officially decided to become a minister, but I majored in English and began writing poetry and short stories.  (Ninth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators. Edited by Connie C. Rockman. NY: H. W. Wilson, 2004.)

Attending Oklahoma Baptist University and then Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he later became a religion professor and earned a Ph.D., but still enjoyed writing novels. His focus became tales of King Arthur, especially involving a squire named Terence.

Currently, he is an associate pastor in Wausau at a Methodist church. He is married and has three children.

Kenneth M. Stampp, 1912-2009

Kenneth Milton Stampp was born on July 12, 1912, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  He received his BA and MA (1935 and 1936) from UW-Madison.  Stampp continued on through his dissertation and earned his PhD, also from UW-Madison, in 1942.  Stampp studied under Charles A. Beard (Economic Interpretation) and William B. Hesseltine.  After a brief tenure at University of Arkansas and University of Maryland, College Park, Kenneth Stampp joined the faculty of UC Berkeley where he taught for 37 years.  He passed away on July 10, 2009, in California.

Kenneth Stampp was a noted historian who researched and studied the Civil War era. In particular, two of his books are considered seminal and influential works in the scholarship of slavery in the antebellum South.   The Peculiar Institution and The Era of Reconstruction, 1865- 1877, are both staples of university history classes.  According to Leon Litwack, a colleague and former student of Stampp’s at Berkeley, “he was clearly one of the influential historians of the 20th century.  All you have to do is open history textbooks and compare what you find in them to what you found before 1960.”  (NYT obituary, 7/15/09)

Major Works:

  • Indiana Politics During the Civil War (1949)
  • And the War Came: The North and the Secession Crisis, 1860-1861 (1950)
  • The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South (1956; 1989)
  • The Causes of the Civil War (1959) editor
  • Andrew Johnson and the Failure of the Agrarian Dream (1962)
  • The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877 (1965; 1967)
  • The Southern Road to Appomattox (1969)
  • Reconstruction: an Anthology of Revisionist Writings (1969) co-editor
  • The Imperiled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War  (1980)
  • America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink (1990)