Stephen Oates from "The Civil War" and historian, dies.

kholland

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AMHERST, Mass. (AP) — Stephen B. Oates, an award-winning Civil War historian who wrote biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Clara Barton, William Faulkner and others, has died. He was 85.

Oates died Friday at his Amherst home surrounded by family after a battle with cancer, officials at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he was a professor from 1968 until 1997, said in a statement. He was well known as a commentator in the Ken Burns' miniseries "The Civil War".
 
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I had the great honor and privilege to have been in the last class he taught before he retired, a year long seminar in the Art of Biography, which consisted of 5 hand picked English Majors and 5 History majors, and we all traveled to his house on Thursday afternoons to dissect different biographies the first half of the year, and then have our own go at writing them the second. It was amazing, intimidating, and invigorating all at once. He was smart as a whip, cantankerous, and didn't hold back on his criticism (we all dreaded seeing the abbreviation "AWK" all in capital letters above our sentences that - truth be told - could have been done better).

There were accusations of plagiarism just before our class began. Two semi-morons, out to make a name for themselves, ran his books through some sort of computer program they'd developed and publicly announced that he had plagiarized his books. Well guess what? The reason his books had large sections in common with earlier works was because they were quoting the same sources. It was a major stink and tarnished his reputation. He came out swinging, and eventually the allegations were disproved. I can tell you that I've been to his house, I've talked to him at length, and I saw his room full of file cabinets, full of the notes he had for the different books he'd written. He didn't plagiarize anything!

One of the students he had before me was a guy from Hampshire College named Ken Burns (students from Hampshire, Amherst, UMass, Smith and Mount Holyoke can take classes at each other's colleges). Dr. Oates had the distinction of having been the man who taught Ken Burns the Civil War, and in Burns's documentary, Dr. Oates was one of the "talking heads" featured, and Ken Burns gave him the next to last word in the film. The documentary was aired for the first time after Dr. Oates had retired, and not long after I'd taken my class with him, but it was still a thrill to hear that soft Texas drawl expounding on Abraham Lincoln on my television!

I dropped him a note when my book on the Raiders came out, as he always requested that his students do after we'd taken his class. I definitely owe a lot of that book to him. Not only because of his training in the Art of Biography, but because when I went to publish it, "Gary" had absolutely no publishing background and no media presence - but "He" did have the not insignificant qualification of having studied with noted Civil War biographer Dr. Stephen B. Oates, a definite selling point!

Rest in peace, Dr. Oates. It is an honor to have been your student.
 

Lampasas Bill

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His book Confederate Cavalry West of the River (1961), while not a biography, is still one of the stellar works on the trans-Mississippi west. I attended UT while he was still teaching there, but, unfortunately, never had the opportunity to take one of his classes.
 

Pete Longstreet

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I had the great honor and privilege to have been in the last class he taught before he retired, a year long seminar in the Art of Biography, which consisted of 5 hand picked English Majors and 5 History majors, and we all traveled to his house on Thursday afternoons to dissect different biographies the first half of the year, and then have our own go at writing them the second. It was amazing, intimidating, and invigorating all at once. He was smart as a whip, cantankerous, and didn't hold back on his criticism (we all dreaded seeing the abbreviation "AWK" all in capital letters above our sentences that - truth be told - could have been done better).

There were accusations of plagiarism just before our class began. Two semi-morons, out to make a name for themselves, ran his books through some sort of computer program they'd developed and publicly announced that he had plagiarized his books. Well guess what? The reason his books had large sections in common with earlier works was because they were quoting the same sources. It was a major stink and tarnished his reputation. He came out swinging, and eventually the allegations were disproved. I can tell you that I've been to his house, I've talked to him at length, and I saw his room full of file cabinets, full of the notes he had for the different books he'd written. He didn't plagiarize anything!

One of the students he had before me was a guy from Hampshire College named Ken Burns (students from Hampshire, Amherst, UMass, Smith and Mount Holyoke can take classes at each other's colleges). Dr. Oates had the distinction of having been the man who taught Ken Burns the Civil War, and in Burns's documentary, Dr. Oates was one of the "talking heads" featured, and Ken Burns gave him the next to last word in the film. The documentary was aired for the first time after Dr. Oates had retired, and not long after I'd taken my class with him, but it was still a thrill to hear that soft Texas drawl expounding on Abraham Lincoln on my television!

I dropped him a note when my book on the Raiders came out, as he always requested that his students do after we'd taken his class. I definitely owe a lot of that book to him. Not only because of his training in the Art of Biography, but because when I went to publish it, "Gary" had absolutely no publishing background and no media presence - but "He" did have the not insignificant qualification of having studied with noted Civil War biographer Dr. Stephen B. Oates, a definite selling point!

Rest in peace, Dr. Oates. It is an honor to have been your student.
I truly enjoyed reading your post. I literally had no idea he was only located 45 min from where I live. The first few times I watched the Ken Burns series... I remember thinking that I wished it featured more of Mr. Oates. Don't get me wrong, Shelby Foote was great, but there was something about the way Mr. Oates expressed his views and opinions. I could tell he was very passionate about the topics he spoke of, and I even found myself watching YouTube videos of him. I haven't read any of books, but I'll be reading them in the near future.
 
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I truly enjoyed reading your post. I literally had no idea he was only located 45 min from where I live. The first few times I watched the Ken Burns series... I remember thinking that I wished it featured more of Mr. Oates. Don't get me wrong, Shelby Foote was great, but there was something about the way Mr. Oates expressed his views and opinions. I could tell he was very passionate about the topics he spoke of, and I even found myself watching YouTube videos of him. I haven't read any of books, but I'll be reading them in the near future.

As interesting as his books are, listening to the stories he told around the writing of them was just as interesting - like, visiting Lincoln's home in Springfield was depressing and touristy, but once he got to Lincoln's law office, he began to really make his mental connection with the man when writing "With Malice Toward None"; and his attempts to get William Faulkner's MUCH younger mistress to let him interview her (she never did cooperate, and I can't say that I blame her!). He said that when he finally wrote about the Lincoln assassination, he was gutted, and described staggering out of the room with his heart pounding and an overwhelming urge to just sit down and cry. He frequently told us that we should choose the subject of our biographies as carefully as we would our spouse, because if we did it right, it would be like marrying the person for the next few years (although only his children's mother is mentioned in his obituary, he was married multiple times; one classmate once remarked that you could sort of track the story of Dr. Oates's life based on who he dedicated each book to). He said that he could never understand how anyone could stand to write a book about someone like Hitler. I wonder what he thought of my taking on the raiders - six guys, and all of them not very nice people.

You and I live relatively close together, because I work within walking distance of Dr. Oates's house. It takes me an hour to get from my house to Bradley. I live just off I-91.
 

JerseyBart

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I had the great honor and privilege to have been in the last class he taught before he retired, a year long seminar in the Art of Biography, which consisted of 5 hand picked English Majors and 5 History majors, and we all traveled to his house on Thursday afternoons to dissect different biographies the first half of the year, and then have our own go at writing them the second. It was amazing, intimidating, and invigorating all at once. He was smart as a whip, cantankerous, and didn't hold back on his criticism (we all dreaded seeing the abbreviation "AWK" all in capital letters above our sentences that - truth be told - could have been done better).

There were accusations of plagiarism just before our class began. Two semi-morons, out to make a name for themselves, ran his books through some sort of computer program they'd developed and publicly announced that he had plagiarized his books. Well guess what? The reason his books had large sections in common with earlier works was because they were quoting the same sources. It was a major stink and tarnished his reputation. He came out swinging, and eventually the allegations were disproved. I can tell you that I've been to his house, I've talked to him at length, and I saw his room full of file cabinets, full of the notes he had for the different books he'd written. He didn't plagiarize anything!

One of the students he had before me was a guy from Hampshire College named Ken Burns (students from Hampshire, Amherst, UMass, Smith and Mount Holyoke can take classes at each other's colleges). Dr. Oates had the distinction of having been the man who taught Ken Burns the Civil War, and in Burns's documentary, Dr. Oates was one of the "talking heads" featured, and Ken Burns gave him the next to last word in the film. The documentary was aired for the first time after Dr. Oates had retired, and not long after I'd taken my class with him, but it was still a thrill to hear that soft Texas drawl expounding on Abraham Lincoln on my television!

I dropped him a note when my book on the Raiders came out, as he always requested that his students do after we'd taken his class. I definitely owe a lot of that book to him. Not only because of his training in the Art of Biography, but because when I went to publish it, "Gary" had absolutely no publishing background and no media presence - but "He" did have the not insignificant qualification of having studied with noted Civil War biographer Dr. Stephen B. Oates, a definite selling point!

Rest in peace, Dr. Oates. It is an honor to have been your student.
Amazing tribute, Gary!!! Thank you and rest in peace, Dr. Oates.

"Awk"in red pen was a staple of my favorite history professor, Dr. Jeffrey Dorwart, but it definitely made me a better writer.
 

Pete Longstreet

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I found it very interesting to learn that Col. William C. Oates of the 15th Alabama was his ancestor.

Col. Oates lead a series of charges on Little Round Top, which I believe is mentioned in the Burns film.
 
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View attachment 412255
AMHERST, Mass. (AP) — Stephen B. Oates, an award-winning Civil War historian who wrote biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Clara Barton, William Faulkner and others, has died. He was 85.

Oates died Friday at his Amherst home surrounded by family after a battle with cancer, officials at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he was a professor from 1968 until 1997, said in a statement. He was well known as a commentator in the Ken Burns' miniseries "The Civil War".
I use Oates in my classes- I will continue to use Oates- a great and respected academic.... Rest easy
 
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