Best-Selling Biographer Joins Great Lives

Charles J. Shields

Charles J. Shields is practiced in the art of putting other people’s experiences into words. The best-selling author and self-described “literary detective” will capitalize on that skill in his new role as associate director of the UMW Great Lives public lecture series.

Shields will work with Great Lives Director William B. Crawley Jr., distinguished professor emeritus of history and American studies, to pump up promotion of the annual spring-semester event. The series already enjoys a national reputation among biographers.

“There is no other program quite like it in the United States,” Shields said. “My goal is to make the program visible to, and accessible by, a larger audience beyond the Fredericksburg region.”

A Great Lives lecturer, Shields got a rousing ovation when he spoke about reclusive novelist Harper Lee last spring. He is the author of The New York Times best-selling biography Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. Shields will lead the next series on Jan. 24, when he will speak on his recently released And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life. [Read more about Shields’ Kurt Vonnegut in Book Report.] The Chappell Lecture Series, Great Lives: Biographical Approaches to History is endowed by a grant from John Chappell, the widower of Carmen Culpeper Chappell ’59.

Great Lives 2012

Jan. 24             Kurt Vonnegut, by Charles J. Shields: And So It Goes

Jan. 31             Lafayette, by Marc Leepson: Lafayette

Feb. 2              Noah Webster, by Joshua Kendall: The Forgotten Founding Father

 Feb. 7              Aaron Burr, by David O. Stewart: American Emperor

Feb. 9              Christopher Columbus, by Laurence Bergreen: The Four Voyages

Feb. 14            Richard and Mildred Loving, a panel discussion on the 1967 Supreme Court case on the legality of mixed-race marriage, by Peggy Loving Fortune, the Lovings’ daughter; Bernard Cohen, former ACLU attorney for the Lovings; and Nancy Buirski, maker of the film The Loving Story

Feb. 16            Jackie Robinson, by Jonathan Eig: Opening Day

Feb. 23            Clarence Darrow, by John A. Farrell: Attorney for the Damned

March 13         Louisa May Alcott, by Harriet Reisen: Louisa May Alcott

March 15         Juliette Gordon Low, by Stacy A. Cordery: Juliette Gordon Low

March 27         Sherlock Holmes, by Jeremy Black

April 3             J.E.B. Stuart, by Emory M. Thomas: Bold Dragoon

April 5             Marie Curie, by Lauren Redniss: Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie

April 10           Madam C.J. Walker, by A’Lelia Bundles: On Her Own Ground

 April 12           Wright Brothers, by James Tobin: To Conquer the Air

April 17           Atatürk, by Nabil Al-Tikriti

April 19           Anne Frank, by Sid Jacobson: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography

April 24           P.T. Barnum, by Neil Harris: Humbug: The Art of P.T. Barnum

 April 26           The Civil War Soldier, by James Robertson: The Untold Civil War

All lectures are open to the public free of charge and begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium, George Washington Hall. For further information, call 540/654-1065 or visit