Ro bert H. Ferrell
omer Vann Woodward's life has virtually spanned the twentieth century——born in 1908, he celebrated his ninety-first birthday in November 1999. And it has been a life marked by the signs of achievement. As a historian, he has received more recognition, one might contend, than almost all of his contemporaries. He has held the presidencies of the three major historical associations: the oldest and most prestigious, the American Historical Association; the Organization of American Historians, whose ponderous title distinguishes its members from scholars of other historical subjects; and the Southern Historical Association, the only regional group that for generations has achieved national support and published its own journal. For his books he has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for history as well as the Bancroft Prize. His entry in Who's Who lists a galaxy of lesser awards. His honorary degrees number twenty, extraordinary for a historian, and surpassed only by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and John Hope Franklin.
An essential part of Vann Woodward's background—he early dropped his first name in favor of an initial—was his birth and upbringing in the small towns of Arkansas. There was never any doubt, for him or for anyone else, that he was a southerner. Arkansas had gone with the Confederacy in 1861, even though it was not a part of the Old South. The Lost Cause was something that he grew up with. The town in which he was born, Vanndale, called attention to the heritage of a southern family, that of his mother. When the Woodwards moved to Morrilton and Arkadelphia it was more of the same, the small-town South. This legacy proved ineradicable and eventually pointed the way to his academic specialization.
What the background made possible, attendance at Emory University in Atlanta reinforced. Woodward had spent two years at a college in Arkadelphia known as Henderson-Brown, a struggling place that enrolled