- NAME: William Manchester
- OCCUPATION: Writer
- BIRTH DATE: April 01, 1922
- DEATH DATE: June 01, 2004
- Did You Know?: William Manchester was a prolific worker, famous for his 50-hour writing sessions.
- EDUCATION: University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Massachusetts
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Attleboro, Massachusetts
- PLACE OF DEATH: Middletown, Connecticut
- Maiden Name: William Raymond Manchester Jr.
- AKA: William Raymond Manchester
- AKA: William Raymond Manchester Jr.
Best Known For
William Manchester was a historian who notably wrote about American President John F. Kennedy and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
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Born on April 1, 1922, in Attleboro, Massachusetts, William Manchester was a noted writer whose major work, The Death of a President (1967), about John F. Kennedy, earned him considerable praise and criticism. The author of several histories, Manchester died on June 1, 2004, in Middletown, Connecticut, before he could complete the third and final volume of his biography of Winston Churchill.
"Power is the one thing that has fascinated me ever since I was a kid in Springfield, Mass. What exactly is power? Where are its roots? How do some people get it and others miss it entirely? How do they hold it or lose it?"
William Raymond Manchester Jr. was born on April 1, 1922, in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Manchester spent the early part of his childhood battling health issues that forced him to spend considerable time indoors. As a result, he became an avid reader and eventually a prolific writer. Manchester penned his first poems at the age of 7, and by 11 was churning out short stories.
Following his father's death, the family moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, where Manchester graduated from Classical High School in 1940. That fall, he enrolled at the University of Massachusetts, where he joined the swim team and majored in English. He interrupted his studies in 1942 to follow a family tradition and join the Marines. Manchester fought in the Pacific War, where he was nearly mortally wounded, and earned a Purple Heart.
It was during his recovery that Manchester met another injured American military man: John F. Kennedy. It was the start of a friendship what would span the next two decades, until the president's assassination in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.
Following his discharge, Manchester returned to the University of Massachusetts, where he competed his English degree and graduated first in his class in 1946. A master's from the University of Missouri followed, as well as his marriage to Julia Marshall in 1948.
Manchester then spent several years working as a newspaper reporter before he took a job as a secretary for writer, H. L. Mencken, who was the subject of Manchester's master's thesis. With his mentor's encouragement, Manchester tried his hand at writing books, and over the next decade he churned out a series of fiction titles. In 1959, he published his first nonfiction book, A Rockefeller Family Portrait.
Maintaining his close ties to Kennedy, Manchester became a frequent visitor to the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. In 1962, he published Portrait of a President: John F. Kennedy in Profile, which was panned by some critics for its overly adoring tone.
In the wake of Kennedy's assassination, Manchester was the obvious choice of the former First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, to write about the tragedy. However, the easy relationship between the writer and the Kennedy family quickly soured when Jackie started fearing that Manchester would write too honestly about her contempt for President Lyndon B. Johnson. The animosity intensified when Look magazine offered Manchester approximately $650,000 to serialize the book, prompting JFK's widow to publicly decry the writer's commercial motives.
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