Foote, Shelby 1916-2005

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FOOTE, Shelby 1916-2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born November 17, 1916, in Greenville, MS; died June 27, 2005, in Memphis, TN. Historian and author. Foote was best known as a U.S. Civil War expert and author of the ambitious three-volume The Civil War: A Narrative (1958–74). Growing up with an early love of books, he attended the University of North Carolina but dropped out in 1937 before completing a degree. During World War II, he served with the U.S. Army in Europe until 1944, and then with the Marines for a year before the war ended. Returning home, he worked various odd jobs before landing a position as a writer for the Saturday Evening Post. Foote was more interested in writing fiction than journalism, however, and he started publishing novels about the South, including Tournament (1949), Love in a Dry Season (1951), and his most successful piece of fiction, Shiloh (1952). While he found moderate success with his fiction, his interest in U.S. Civil War history led to his most acclaimed work, The Civil War, on which he spent two decades researching and writing. When it was completed, many critics hailed it as a monumental work and praised it for its balanced view of North and South combatants; others, however, sometimes complained that Foote spent too much time on the battles and not enough on the social, political, and other aspects of the war. He was also criticized for refusing to footnote his research, although many reviewers agreed that the three-volume work stands as a meticulous piece of scholarship. The Civil War earned the author a Fletcher Pratt Award, but even so it took his appearance on Ken Burns's 1990 television documentary series, The Civil War, for Foote to gain real fame. The author made eighty-nine appearances on the series, winning fans across the country for his colorful commentary that brought the conflict to life. Foote soon tired of fame, however, and eased out of the spotlight to continue his writing efforts. This included the novels Child by Fever (1995) and Ride Out (1996), the missive collection The Correspondence of Shelby Foote and Walker Percy (1997), a three-volume edition of Chekhov Stories (2000), and Tacitus Histories Annals (2003).

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Chicago Tribune, June 29, 2005, section 1, p. 4.

Los Angeles Times, June 29, 2005, p. B10; July 1, 2005, p. A22.

New York Times, June 29, 2005, p. A21.

Times (London, England), July 19, 2005, p. 46.