American Historian Robert Remini Dies At 91

A former House historian, prolific biographer and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Robert Remini spent a lifetime exploring handwritten letters and other documents that illuminate the 19th century. He won a National Book Award for the three-volume The Life of Andrew Jackson.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The American historian Robert Remini has died. He spent a lifetime exploring handwritten letters and other documents that illuminate the 19th century.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

His books included one on Senator Henry Clay, best known for compromises that kept the nation from imploding over slavery.

PROFESSOR ROBERT REMINI: Compromise, you see, in the 19th century, meant something quite different; that you're willing to listen to the other side and try to work out your differences, and he was expert at that. And we need to get back, you know, to the idea that that's what compromise is.

GREENE: That's Remini with our colleague Michele Norris.

Now, in the years before his death at age 91, he also served as historian for the House of Representatives, assisting lawmakers who often cite history but may not always get it right.

But his greatest achievement remained his giant biography of Andrew Jackson.

INSKEEP: Robert Remini meant to write a single volume on Jackson, a general and president who killed a man in a duel, won the Battle of New Orleans, founded the Democratic Party, elbowed Indians off their land, and ended up on the $20 bill.

With such an eventful life to study, Remini's project got out of control. It grew to three volumes and almost became four before his editor stopped him. One of the volumes won a National Book Award.

And when a friend recently loaned me a set of the books for some research, they got so dog-eared that I really can't give them back.

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