Robert Remini died on March 28 near Chicago in Evanston Hospital at the age of 91 as a result of a stroke. The award-winning historian was active almost until the end, retiring from his post as the official historian for the US House of Representatives only in 2010.
According to National Public Radio (NPR), Remini started off with a plan to write one book on 19th century president Andrew Jackson, the founder of the Democratic Party and the winner of the Battle of New Orleans. That battle has gone down in history as the one the general won after the war was already over — but it didn’t stop Jackson from being honored on the 20 dollar bill.
Communications were pretty primitive in those days, and Remini ultimately discovered so many handwritten letters and other historical documents that he went on to write 10 books just on Andrew Jackson. It probably didn’t hurt that his subject was one of the country’s most colorful presidents.
For instance, in 1829 Jackson threw open the White House to the public for the first time for an inaugural ball. The press of the day reported that people with dirty boots climbed on White House furniture to gawk at our seventh president, leading to widespread outcry about the future of mob rule.
Like all stories, it got better down the line. I remember being taught that Andrew Jackson himself worked with his dirty boots up on a White House desk.
Be that as it may, with tons of material to work with, Robert Remini ultimately wrote or co-wrote over 20 books, including a massive Jackson trilogy which received the 1984 National Book Award for the final volume.
At that, the trilogy might have turned into a four volume set if his editor hadn’t called a halt to the madness.
In his role as House historian, Remini helped legislators who wanted to cite history with some accuracy.
When Robert Remini died, the US lost a bit more of its history.
[photo courtesy Elaine Radford]