Madigan, Tim 1957-

views updated

Madigan, Tim 1957-

(Timothy S. Madigan)

PERSONAL: Born December 16, 1957, in Crookston, MN; son of Myke and Lois Madigan; married; wife’s name Catherine; children: Melanie, Patrick. Education: University of North Dakota, B.A., 1980.

ADDRESSES: OfficeFort Worth Star-Telegram, 400 West 7th St., Fort Worth, TX 76101. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Writer, journalist. Worked variously for newspapers in Williston, ND, and in Odessa, TX, and for the Chicago Tribune; Fort Worth Star-Telegram, journalist, 1984—.

AWARDS, HONORS: Texas Reporter of the Year, 1996, 1997.


See No Evil: Blind Devotion and Bloodshed in David Koresh’s Holy War, Summit Publishers Group (New York, NY), 1993.

The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press (New York, NY), 2001.

I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers, Gotham Books (New York, NY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS: Ever since graduating from college, Tim Madigan has been working for newspapers. In the 1990s, as a journalist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he made a name for himself and twice was named Texas Reporter of the Year. His abilities to gather facts and write a compelling story are evidenced not only in his newspaper articles but also in the books he has published. While his subject matter varies, Madigan’s writing, as New York Times book reviewer Adam Nos-siter described it, is “skillful, clear-eyed telling.”

In 1993, while the country was watching the televised standoff of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians unfold, Madigan witnessed firsthand the standoff between the FBI and Koresh’s group outside their Waco, Texas, compound. Following the standoff’s end in a fiery blaze that killed many of the religious group’s members, Madigan was offered a book contract to document his own experiences during the tragedy. According to Courtenay Thompson in the Columbia Journalism Review, throughout the whole Waco tragedy there was a mad rush by television and movie producers, as well as book publishers, to dramatize this story and get it out to the public. Madigan was aware of the publishers desire to be the first to have a book in the stores. He told Thompson that he had a different motive. His “goal as a journalist was, given those ground rules, to write a good book.” His focus was to “help advance the story rather than sensationalize it.” Julia Null, a reviewer for the Texas Monthly, liked Madigan’s efforts, and noted that the book that resulted from them, See No Evil: Blind Devotion and Bloodshed in David Koresh’s Holy War, “reads well.

Madigan’s second book, The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, is based on a secret that the city of Tulsa had managed to keep from the rest of the world for almost eight decades. Not until the Tulsa Race Riot Commission (1998-2000) was formed did people living outside of the city know that on May 31, 1921, mobs formed in the streets of Tulsa, demanding the lynching of Dick Rowland, an African American, whom the local papers had falsely accused of raping Sarah Page, a white woman. Street fights ensued and by the end of the week, a prosperous section of town inhabited mostly by African Americans had been completely destroyed. The mobs that ruled Tulsa’s streets that night included both white and black people. One of those in the crowd was a black war veteran carrying a gun. He was determined, according to Jim Morris of, to protect his friend Rowland, whom he was afraid the white mob would lynch. When a white man confronted the armed veteran and tried to take his gun away from him, “the gun went off, the white man was dead, the riot was on,” wrote Morris.

No one knows for sure how many people were killed before the riots ended, but most people agree that the majority killed were African Americans. Some estimates state that one hundred people died; other estimates are much higher, some reaching as high as three thousand. Many were killed by gunfire. Other people had their homes burned. Some survivors of the riots claim that explosive devices were dropped on their homes from airplanes flying overhead. The riots lasted two days. In the end, thirty-four blocks of the black community called Greenwood had been burnt to the ground.

In a review of Madigan’s book, Chris Patsilelis, writing for the Houston Chronicle, called the riots “the deadliest domestic outbreak of barbarism since the Civil War.” Calling The Burning “engrossing and revealing,” Patsilelis added, “Madigan does an excellent job of tracing events leading up to the riot and of evoking the dense atmosphere of racial hatred that pervaded post-Civil War America: the hardships of emancipation, the murderous rides of the Ku Klux Klan, the oppression of Jim Crow laws and the thousands of lynchings of blacks, usually for imagined crimes.”

Although reading the accounts of what Margaret Flanagan, for Booklist, described as “the most shameful episodes in the troubled history of race relations in the U.S.” is difficult, Flanagan referred to Madigan’s research and subsequent writing as “compelling” “riveting.” Other reviewers also used the word “compelling” in describing Madigan’s second book. According to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, Madigan shows “how the riot touched individual lives.” Madigan does this “by creating full-scale portraits of black and white citizens” and creating “absorbing narratives” from the stories of those he has interviewed. Adam Nossiter, commending Madigan’s efforts, noted in the New York Times Book Review that “you won’t find any mention” of the Tulsa Race Riot “in a number of standard histories of the 1920’s.”

Madigan turned to personal history for his 2006 I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers, a memoir of his relationship with the beloved television children’s show host who died in 2003. Once again, Madigan’s journalism led him to this story, for in 1995 he was assigned a profile of Rogers for the Star-Telegram. A friendship blossomed as a result, and subsequent communication with Rogers helped Madigan through difficulties and crises in his own life, including a marital breakdown and the death of his brother. Rog-ers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, provided spiritual guidance and consolation for Madigan, while for millions of children he developed a television safe haven with his Mister Rogers Neighborhood. For Madigan, as for many of these viewers, Madigan became something of a surrogate father, and the author’s memoir does not hold back on this point.

Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Brendan Vaughan noted: “In this spiritual memoir about his friendship with Fred Rogers, the luminous sage of children’s television, Tim Madigan comes awfully close to calling Mister Rogers a second Christ.”For some reviewers Madigan’s book was too adulatory. A critic for Kirkus Reviews thought Rogers deserves better than a paean larded with snippets of correspondence, extracts from Madigan’s newspaper pieces and a general endorsement of love, family, friendship, religion and the thoughts of the Little Prince.” However, a higher assessment was provided by a Publishers Weekly reviewer who wrote: “Even if readers don’t feel their day-to-day lives transformed by this luminous memoir, in times of grief or of loss they’ll know which book on their shelf to turn to.” Similarly, Library Journal contributor Mary E. Jones praised Madigan’s memoir for passing on Rogers teachings of the healing nature of friendship and how important it is to tell someone you are proud of her or him.”

Madigan told CA: “From the time I was a small boy I’ve loved to read, which led to a desire to emulate the writers of the books I loved most. Sherlock Holmes mysteries were big for me, early on, as were Dickens and Steinbeck and, later, John le Carré. If I have a favorite writer, it is the espionage writer le Carré, for his combination of dense plotting, character development, and elegant writing style.

“More and more as the years pass, I worry less and less about the quality of any first draft, realizing that the process of writing is really the process of rewriting. I tell students that the first draft is nothing more than a sculptor’s mass of clay, ready to be maniuplated and shaped into its final form.

“The most surprising thing is what I referred to in the last question: that writing is less about inspiration than about rewriting. Also, that for most writers a long and somewhat painful period of apprenticeship is necessary.

“I love each of my books almost equally, but for very different reasons. The David Koresh book because it was my first, and the phenomenon of cults was so interesting. The Tulsa book because it opened my eyes (and hopefully those of others) to the history of race in America. And the Mister Rogers book, because I want the world to know what a historically great human he was, and about possibility of healing that exists in true friendship.

“Ultimately, I hope that readers of my books will feel more connected to the world and other humans through the stories I tell.”



Booklist, November 1, 2001, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, pp. 458-459.

Essence, November, 2001, review of The Burning, p. 86.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2001, review of The Burning, p. 1269; May 15, 2006, review of I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers, p. 16; June 15, 2006, review of I’m Proud of You, p. 620.

Library Journal, September 1, 2001, Robert Flatley, review of The Burning, p. 203; August 1, 2006, Mary E. Jones, review of I’m Proud of You, p. 98.

New York Times Book Review, November 11, 2001, Adam Nossiter, “Something Tulsa Forgot,” p. 33; September 10, 2006, Brendan Vaughan, review of I’m Proud of You.

Publishers Weekly, September 10, 2001, review of The Burning, p. 70; April 25, 2005, John F. Baker, “Knowing Mr. Rogers,” p. 16; May 15, 2006, review of I’m Proud of You, p. 55.

Texas Monthly, February, 1994, Julia Null, review of See No Evil: Blind Devotion and Bloodshed in David Koresh’s Holy War, p. 70.

ONLINE, (June 17, 2002), Jim Morris, “Tulsa Panel Seeks Truth from 1921 Race Riot.”

Columbia Journalism Review, (June 15, 2002), Courtenay Thompson, “Apocalypse Now, Waco and the Lure of Instant Books.”, (May 20, 2002), Chris Patsilelis, “Tulsa’s Bloody Riot Detailed in Compelling Work."

Sonbderbooks, (July 2, 2007), review of I’m Proud of You.

Tim Madigan Home Page, (July 14, 2007).