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James A. Michener
Author James A. Michener in 1991
Author James A. Michener in 1991
Born (1907-02-03)February 3, 1907
Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died October 16, 1997(1997-10-16) (aged 90)
Austin, Texas, U.S.
Occupation Author, philanthropist, teacher, academic, naval officer and political advisor
Alma mater
Genre Historical fiction
Notable works Tales of the South Pacific (1946)
Notable awards

James Albert Michener February 3, 1907 – October 16, 1997 was an American author of more than 40 books, most of which were fictional, lengthy family sagas covering the lives of many generations in particular geographic locations and incorporating solid history. Michener had numerous bestsellers and works selected for Book of the Month Club, and was known for his meticulous research behind the books.

Early life

Michener wrote that he did not know who his parents were or exactly when and where he was born. He was raised by an adoptive mother, Mabel Michener, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Some have argued that Mabel was his birth mother. He graduated from Swarthmore College, where he played basketball, in 1929. He later studied at the Colorado State Teachers College. He taught there for several years. He also taught at Harvard University.

His writing career began during World War II. He was assigned to the South Pacific Ocean as a naval historian. He used his time there as the basis for Tales of the South Pacific, his first book. This book was the basis for the musical South Pacific. In addition to writing novels, short stories, and non-fiction, Michener was very involved with movies, TV series, and radio.

James A. Michener Art Museum

Michener Museum Dtown
James Michener Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania

Opened in 1988, in Michener's hometown of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the James A. Michener Art Museum houses collections of local and well-known artists. Michener pledged $5.5 million to the museum in 1996. Constructed from the remains of an old state prison, the museum is a non-profit organization with both permanent and rotating collections. Two prominent permanent fixtures are the James A. Michener display room and the Nakashima Reading Room, constructed in honor of his third wife's Japanese heritage. The museum is known for its permanent collection of Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings.


Michener became a major philanthropist, donating more than $100 million to educational, cultural, and writing institutions. By 1992, his gifts made him Austin's largest single donor to that time. In 1989, Michener donated the royalty earnings from the Canadian edition of his novel Journey (1989), published in Canada by McClelland & Stewart, to create the Journey Prize, an annual Canadian literary prize worth $10,000 (CDN) that is awarded for the year's best short story published by an emerging Canadian writer.

Final years and death


In Micheners' final years, he and his wife lived in Austin, Texas, and they endowed the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. The Center provides three-year Michener Fellowships in fiction, poetry, playwriting and screenwriting to a small number of students.

Suffering from terminal kidney disease, in October 1997, Michener ended the daily dialysis treatment that had kept him alive for four years. He said he had accomplished what he wanted and did not want further physical complications. On October 16, 1997, he died of kidney failure, at age 90. Michener was cremated, and his ashes were placed next to those of his wife at Austin Memorial Park Cemetery in Austin, Texas.

Michener left most of his estate and book copyrights to Swarthmore College, where he earned his bachelor's degree. He donated his papers to the University of Northern Colorado, where he earned his master's degree.

Books by James A. Michener

  • Alaska
  • The Bridge at Andau
  • The Bridges at Toko-Ri
  • Caravans
  • Caribbean
  • Centennial
  • A Century of Sonnets
  • Chesapeake
  • Collectors, Forgers - And A Writer: A Memoir
  • The Covenant
  • Creatures of the Kingdom
  • The Drifters
  • The Eagle and The Raven
  • The Fires of Spring
  • The Floating World
  • Hawaii
  • Iberia
  • Japanese Prints
  • Journey
  • Kent State: What Happened and Why
  • Legacy
  • Literary Reflections
  • Mexico
  • Miracle in Seville
  • The Novel
  • Pilgrimage: A Memoir of Poland and Rome
  • Poland
  • Presidential Lottery
  • The Quality of Life
  • Rascals in Paradise
  • Recessional
  • Return to Paradise
  • Sayonara
  • Six Days in Havana
  • The Source
  • Space
  • Sports in America
  • Tales of the South Pacific
  • Texas
  • The World is My Home
  • This Noble Land
  • Ventures in Editing
  • The Voice of Asia
  • Years of Infamy
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