Allan Nevins's name and fame are, of course, written large across historical literature. He published more than twenty-five books and fathered the Oral History Project at Columbia which opened a new world of historical documentation.
Nevins could not have achieved so much had he not possessed the explosive and purposeful energy which had, in its extremes, its comic side. He would run up a flight of stairs even if at the top he had to stand and wait for his more slowly companions. I remember a television rehearsal from which, unable to sit still while the director argued with his lighting experts, the great historian, to everyone's consternation, vanished. A believable anecdote has it that he could not resist getting to Grand Central Station an hour before the train left, and then, unwilling to waste the hour, disappeared into a pay toilet from which the clacking of a typewriter soon emerged.
His expansive kindness, based on the courtesy which can only come from profound human understanding, is remembered with gratitude not only by his historical peers but by all younger historians who crossed his path. The instant I myself met him--it was unconventionally through the television adventure "Omnibus" in which we were both involved--he extended to me such warm appreciation and generosity as most professors reserve only for their favorite pupils. At the dinner table his face glowed with benevolence. There was no subject of discussion in which he was not interested, and his own contributions were always modest. His humility, which was completely genuine, probably grew from the same source as his determination not to waste a minute: capable of all things, he was conscious of how much more there was in the world than he, however fast he ran, could encompass.
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Publication information: Book title: Random Harvest. Contributors: James Thomas Flexner - Author. Publisher: Fordham University Press. Place of publication: Bronx, NY. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 211.
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