I see journalism as the day-to-day record of history, and as such I believe journalism and history are intimately related. This is reflected in my research and writing, which has resulted in several books. I'm lucky enough to see my students start out along the road to a big project, too — maybe not quite book length, but long and well-planned. I thoroughly enjoy seeing students take an idea and develop it into an interesting and lengthy paper in Senior Thesis. What an achievement for those students! And I like teaching the freshmen, who come in so nervous but outgrow it quickly, in my UCCA classes.
As a historian, I have written several academic books and have published two popular history books, A Rare Titanic Family and Wings of Opportunity. A Rare Titanic Family is the story of my great-uncle, Albert Caldwell, who survived the Titanic at age 26. He lived to be 91 and told me the story many times of how he and his wife and baby all survived the tragic shipwreck in 1912. I thought I knew his Titanic story as well as my own name until I began researching it further and was astounded to find out what I didn't know -- that the Caldwells were on the Titanic because they were fleeing their jobs as missionaries, and that their boss was waiting for them when the rescue ship arrived in New York. It took the Titanic to resolve the struggle between my Titanic family and their employer. Wings of Opportunity is about the Wright Brothers' time in Alabama in 1910, where they taught the nation's first civilian flying school and flew the world's first night flights. Few people realize the Wright Brothers were ever in Alabama. I didn't, either, and that's why I had to write the book. Both books have been well-received, and I have been asked to speak about them all over the country.
I have another book in press, tentatively titled Three Not-So-Ordinary Joes, about the three newspapermen named Joe who stuttered and staggered their way into founding Southern literature.
Degrees and Certifications
- B.A. in History, English, Principia College
- M.A. in Journalism, University of Alabama
- Ph.D. in Mass Communication, University of Alabama
Awards and Honors
- A Rare Titanic Family won the Ella Dickey Literacy Award for books that preserve history, given in 2014. I shared this award with former First Lady Laura Bush.
- Elected as President of the national American Journalism Historians Association for 2008-2009, and by strange coincidence, also hosted the national convention that year
- Top media history dissertation in the nation, American Journalism Historians Association, 1997
- Choice Outstanding Academic Book Award for The Early American Press, 1690-1783 (award date, 1995)
- University of Alabama Outstanding Graduate Student, 1993
- University of Alabama Outstanding Master's Thesis Award, 1990-1991
- University of Alabama Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Master's Student, 1990-1991
- McNeil History Award and Selmeier Prose Writing Award, Principia College, 1981.
- A Rare Titanic Family: The Caldwells' Story of Survival (NewSouth Books, 2012)
- Wings of Opportunity: The Wright Brothers in Montgomery, Alabama, 1910 (NewSouth Books, 2010)
- The Significance of the Printed Word in Early America: Colonists' Thoughts on the Role of the Press (Greenwood, 1999)
- co-author, The Early American Press, 1690-1783 (Greenwood, 1994)
- co-author, The Great Reporters: An Anthology of News Writing at its Best (Vision, 1992)
- "Presidential Address," American Journalism: A Journal of Media History (Winter 2010).
- multiple chapters in books
- multiple book reviews in scholarly journals
- and, long ago, hundreds of newspaper articles.
- Multiple at American Journalism Historians Association, both papers and panels, over the past 20 years.
- Colonial Media
- Wright Brothers
- American Journalism Historians Association