Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Robert Remini July 17, 1921 -- March 28, 2013 Noted Political Biographer, Official House Historian

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Robert Remini July 17, 1921 -- March 28, 2013 Noted Political Biographer, Official House Historian

Article excerpt

Robert Remini, an award-winning historian who was considered a pre-eminent biographer of President Andrew Jackson and who also served as official historian of the U.S. House of Representatives, died March 28 at a hospital in Evanston, Ill. He was 91.

His death was announced by the University of Illinois at Chicago, with which Mr. Remini had been associated for nearly five decades. He had complications from a stroke, said Dennis Costello, his son- in-law.

Equal parts scholar and storyteller, Mr. Remini was regarded as one of the finest political biographers of his era. His subjects included presidents John Quincy Adams and Martin Van Buren, House speaker Henry Clay, senator and statesman Daniel Webster and Mormon leader Joseph Smith. Mr. Remini also wrote a sprawling history of the House of Representatives, where he served as historian from 2005 to 2010.

He was most associated with Jackson, the unbridled president who extended settlement into the frontier and was known for his broad populist appeal and bloody relocation of American Indians.

In addition to his numerous other publications on the seventh president, Mr. Remini penned a three-volume biography, the result of more than 15 years of labor. The final installment, "Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833-1845," received the 1984 National Book Award in nonfiction.

"There was an electrifying dynamism about Jackson that I found irresistible," Mr. Remini once told the Chicago Tribune. He served as president from 1829 to 1837 and was, in Mr. Remini's words, "the embodiment of the new American.

"This new man was no longer British," he continued. "He no longer wore the queue and silk pants. He wore trousers, and he had stopped speaking with a British accent."

Critics who admired Mr. Remini's work praised his scholarly exactitude and smooth narrative style.

Reviewing the first installment in the three-volume biography -- "Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Empire, 1767-1821" (1977) -- a Washington Post book critic wrote that the volume "deserves to become a classic because of the exceptional precision of the description and the perceptive historical analysis."

Those who found fault with Mr. Remini argued that he identified too closely with his subject.

"Seeing the world through Old Hickory's eyes, we appreciate him as a complex human being," history professor Andrew Cayton wrote in a New York Times book review of "Andrew Jackson and his Indian Wars" (2001). "The problem ... is that we see the world only through Jackson's eyes."

Mr. Remini wrote that he did not wish "to excuse or exonerate" the president for his treatment of the Indians -- an era he called "one of the unhappiest chapters in American history." He did endeavor to set the president in his historical and cultural context, including the rampant racism of the time. …

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