Some sad news today from the world of historians: the death of Robert Remini, the man who, among many projects, wrote a huge, definitive and totally engrossing three-volume biography of Andrew Jackson. I read the condensed version of the book for a class in college, and even the one-volume version brought the man to life in a big way. Remini was a historian first and foremost, but he could tell a story well – I particularly remember how well he told the story of Jackson’s duel with Charles Dickinson: I could see, in his telling, Old Hickory taking a bullet to the chest, a bullet that should have killed him, much less knocked him down, and somehow willing himself to stand back up. And I could see a helpless and terrified Dickinson flipping the heck out as Jackson, in excruciating pain, aimed and fired at his opponent, killing him and earning himself a reputation as a man you might not want to mess with. Reading that story – as told by Remini – is probably why I’m so convinced that in a presidential knife fight deathmatch Old Hickory would walk out the winner.
I didn’t get to meet or talk with Remini myself, but some of my colleagues got to interview him when he wrote the biography of the US House a few years ago. I mentioned to one of my coworkers that I’d loved the Jackson book, and he relayed that to Remini on the phone as they prepped for the show. Remini sent over an extra copy of his book specifically so that I could read it.
So, thanks for sending that book, Robert Remini, and thanks for the hair-raising tales of Old Hickory. I don’t pretend that my work is anything like yours, but your work is making my work much more interesting.