Shelby Foote, "That Guy from the PBS Civil War Show", Dead at 88

Reuters obituary.

Nice quote from the article:

An easy storyteller and quick with a quip, he once said of his transient father, who died of blood poisoning when Foote was 5: “(He) never had any intentions of doing anything with his life, so far as I know, until he married my mother and lost all of his money.”

I only know him from the series but his honey-tinged voice, easy-going manner, and eloquent turn-of-phrase certainly contributed in a big way to that monumental TV production.

i really enjoyed his contribution to the pbs civil war. he had a wonderful way with words.

I hope C-SPAN reruns his *Book Notes * interview. I could listen to him speak all day.

I have his books. Unfortunately, I have not hat the time to read them.

Great writer, colorful character. He was also quite the randy boy as a young man; ironic for somebody whose fame was writing about the military, he was court martialled and dishonorably discharged during WW2 for going AWOL from his base in England to visit his Irish girlfriend (whom he later married). His first two marriages ended in divorce due to his womanizing, though he evidently calmed down by his third marriage (which lasted 50 years).

He totally made the Ken Burns documentary.

A trivial aside: dialect coaches have used voice tapes of Shelby Foote to teach Southern accents for Tennessee Williams plays. Eric “Will & Grace McCormack” patterned his Lonesome Dove character’s accent on Foote as well.

Shelby Foote is also featured in a chapter of Tony Horwitz’ Confederates in the Attic.

I saw him speak about eight years ago. Very engaging speaker.

I’ve read parts of his books many times, but I’ve never sat down and gone through any of them at a stretch.

I read through all of his Civil War narrative. It’s as good as people say: he manages to give the total number of killed and wounded for every single skirmish of the war and still make them interesting.

A fine writer. He’ll be missed, but he left a terrific legacy.

I enjoyed listening to him on the show more than I liked the other guy – the bald one who looked like he may have had a stroke at one time. That guy was being way too dramatic. It sounded as if he were in a play or something – like he was trying to build suspense in an audience of pre-teens instead or an audtiorium of bored students instead of an audience which contained (I presume) mmostly adults with at least some knowledge of the Civil War.

I always enjoyed listening to Foote’s segments.

I loved to listen to him on the PBS series. I’ve attempted to read his Civil War series but to be honest, it doesn’t lend itself to my reading habits of just doing about 10 pages per day. If I had a month on the beach, I’d probably find the books wonderful.

It’s a sad day in Memphis. Foote was class personified. And he totally knew whereof he spoke on the Civil War. He worked on that book for twenty years! The book of his correspondance with Walker Percy is a great read for an unguarded look at two formitable intellects who were good friends and rivals at the same time.

I had the good fortune to interview him for one of my first assignments for the magazine I work for. He became a recluse in his later years and would only do it over the phone. At first he thought I was trying to sell him something, but once I convinced him I was on the level, the interview went great. The man didn’t just speak in complete sentences, he spoke in complete paragraphs. I just dug up my notes for the interview. Here’s my favorite quote:


Edward Bearss. I remember his name for its peculiar double consonant, and because he was so annoying.

I read/heard somewhere that Foote wrote that book by hand—with a dip pen. Apparently he wanted to make sure he took his time at it. :eek:

I know he wrote everything in longhand, but I don’t know if he used a dip pen or not. It would fit his character, though.

As Confederate apologists go (Fake Shelby Foote quote: “Oh, Mars Bobby, you are SO HOT! My only regret is that I was born too late to have your children!”) he was interesting and entertaining and a pleasure to listen to when he wasn’t gushing over Bobby Lee.

MPSIMS link.

The only problem with “The Civil War” is that the voices, particularly Foote and McCullough, as well as Jay Ungar’s fiddle playing, are so soothing you feel almost wistful about the whole thing. It was good to have a guy like Bearss around to remind you that there was a war going on.

That said, Foote’s writing superb, although the Civil War books could do with a bit more in the way of maps. I finally decided to stop trying to figure out exactly what was going in the battles, and then I enjoyed them immensely.

Edward Bearss. I remember his name for its peculiar double consonant, and because he was so annoying.

John Brown! John Brown!

That was my favorite part of the whole series!