Doris Helen Kearns Goodwin (born January 4, 1943) is an American biographer, historian, and political commentator. She has authored biographies of several U.S. presidents, including Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream; The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga; No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II (which won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1995); Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln; and her most recent book, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.
Early life and education
Doris Helen Kearns was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Helen Witt (née Miller) and Michael Francis Aloysius Kearns. She has a sister, Jene Kearns. Her paternal grandparents were Irish immigrants. She grew up in Rockville Centre, New York. She attended Colby College in Maine, where she was a member of Delta Delta Delta and Phi Beta Kappa, and was graduated magna cum laude in 1964 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship in 1964 to pursue doctoral studies. In 1968, she earned a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University, with a thesis titled "Prayer and Reapportionment: An Analysis of the Relationship between the Congress and the Court."
Career and awards
In 1967, Kearns went to Washington, D.C. as a White House Fellow during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration. Johnson initially expressed interest in hiring the young intern as his Oval Office assistant, but after an article by Kearns appeared in The New Republic laying out a scenario for Johnson's removal from office over his conduct of the war in Vietnam, she was instead assigned to the Department of Labor; Goodwin has written that she felt relieved to be able to remain in the internship program in any capacity at all. "The president discovered that I had been actively involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement and had written an article entitled, 'How to Dump Lyndon Johnson'. I thought for sure he would kick me out of the program, but instead he said, 'Oh, bring her down here for a year and if I can't win her over, no one can'." After Johnson decided not to run for reelection, he brought Kearns to the White House as a member of his staff, where she focused on domestic anti-poverty efforts.
After Johnson left office in 1969, Kearns taught government at Harvard for 10 years, including a course on the American presidency. During this period, she also assisted Johnson in drafting his memoirs. Her first book Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, which drew upon her conversations with the late president, was published in 1977, becoming a New York Times bestseller and provided a launching pad for her literary career.
A sports journalist as well, Goodwin was the first female journalist to enter the Boston Red Sox locker room. She consulted on and appeared in Ken Burns's 1994 documentary Baseball.
Goodwin won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for History for No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front During World War II (1994).
Goodwin received an honorary L.H.D. from Bates College in 1998. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from Westfield State College in 2008.
Goodwin was on air talking to Tom Brokaw of NBC News during their 2000 Presidential Election Night Coverage where Brokaw made his announcement that NBC had in fact projected the state of Florida for George W. Bush making him president.
Goodwin won the 2005 Lincoln Prize (for the best book about the American Civil War) for Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2005), a book about Abraham Lincoln's presidential cabinet. Part of the book was adapted by Tony Kushner into the screenplay for Steven Spielberg's 2012 film Lincoln. She is a member of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission advisory board. The book also won the inaugural American History Book Prize given by the New-York Historical Society.
Goodwin was a member of the board of directors for Northwest Airlines.
Goodwin is a frequent guest commentator on Meet the Press, appearing many times (during the tenures of hosts Tim Russert, Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, and Chuck Todd), as well as a regular guest on Charlie Rose, appearing a total of forty-eight times since 1994.
Stephen King met with Goodwin while he was writing his novel 11/22/63, due to her being an assistant to Johnson, and King used some of her ideas in the novel on what a worst-case scenario would be like if history had changed.
In 2014, Kearns won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction for The Bully Pulpit. It was also a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist (History, 2013) and a Christian Science Monitor 15 best nonfiction (2013).
In 2016, she appeared as herself in the fifth episode of American Horror Story: Roanoke.
In 2002, The Weekly Standard determined that her book The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys used without attribution numerous phrases and sentences from three other books: Times to Remember, by Rose Kennedy; The Lost Prince, by Hank Searl; and Kathleen Kennedy: Her Life and Times, by Lynne McTaggart.
McTaggart remarked, "If somebody takes a third of somebody's book, which is what happened to me, they are lifting out the heart and guts of somebody else's individual expression." Goodwin had previously reached a "private settlement" with McTaggart over the issue. In an article she wrote for Time magazine, she said, "Though my footnotes repeatedly cited Ms. McTaggart's work, I failed to provide quotation marks for phrases that I had taken verbatim... The larger question for those of us who write history is to understand how citation mistakes can happen."
Slate magazine also reported that there were multiple passages in Goodwin's book on the Roosevelts (No Ordinary Time) that were apparently taken from Joseph Lash's Eleanor and Franklin, Hugh Gregory Gallagher's FDR's Splendid Deception, and other books, although she "scrupulously" footnoted the material. The Los Angeles Times reported similar circumstances concerning her book The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys.
The allegations of plagiarism caused Goodwin to resign from the Pulitzer Prize Board and her position as a regular guest on the PBS NewsHour program.
In 1975, Kearns married Richard N. Goodwin, who had worked in the Johnson and Kennedy administrations as an adviser and a speechwriter. They live in Concord, Massachusetts, and have three sons, Richard, Michael, and Joseph. However, the December 15, 1975 edition of The Crimson noted that their son Richard was nine years old at the time of their wedding and claimed that Goodwin's previous wife was his mother.
In her contributions to Ken Burns's award-winning documentary television series Baseball (1994), Goodwin related stories about growing up as a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. She noted that her father would have her document the baseball game from the radio and replay the events of the game once he returned home. She cited this as her first experience as a historian. She chronicles her family's love for the Dodgers until the team's move to Los Angeles in 1957. When she met her husband in the late 1960s, she became a Boston Red Sox fan, even though her father became a New York Mets fan; one of her sisters later became a Colorado Rockies fan, and her other sister stayed a Dodgers fan.