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Emory M. Thomas

Dates

  • b. 1939

Georgia Connections

  • Athens, Clarke County: long-time history faculty member, UGA

Notes of Interest

Emory M. Thomas is Regents Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Georgia, a long-time member of the history department faculty and the author of eight books. He has written primarily about the Civil War, and two of his books have been generally acknowledged as the finest one-volume biographies of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart. Thomas was a member of the UGA faculty from 1967 to 2002, when he retired. He has contributed essays to many historical journals and magazines, and his original work appears in more than a dozen books.

Emory M. Thomas was born November 3, 1939, in Richmond, Virginia, and grew up there in the shadow of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Robert E. Lee, Douglas Southall Freeman. He received his B.A. in history at the University of Virginia in 1962 and a Ph.D. at Rice University in 1966. He was tutorial instructor at Rice 1962-65 and then an assistant professor in U.S. Army Extension Courses at Wright State University 1966-67. He joined the UGA faculty in 1967, and was named Regents Professor of History in 1987. He won a Senior Fulbright Lectureship to Italy in 1974, was the Douglas Southall Freeman Professor of History at the University of Richmond in 1993, and was Mark W. Clark Distinguished Visiting Professor of History at The Citadel in 2000 and 2003-04. He now is retired and lives in Athens.

His first two books, "The Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience" and "The Confederate State of Richmond: A Biography of the Capital" (his doctoral dissertation) were both published in 1971. "The American War and Peace, 1860-1877," appeared in 1973, followed by "The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865," a volume in the American Nation Series, in 1979. His biography "Bold Dragoon: The Life of of J.E.B. Stuart" was published to acclaim in 1986. Critics called it "definitive" and praised the author's vivid writing and solid research. "Travels to Hallowed Ground: A Historian's Journey to the American Civil War" (1987) was followed by what is regarded as his major work, "Robert E. Lee: A Biography" (1995). Named a Notable Book by The New York Times, it was called "the best and most balanced of the Lee biographies" by The New York Review of Books. Admitting the stature of Freeman's four-volume biography, Thomas wrote that his study "is neither classical nor revisionist," but relies on recent scholarship and a wealth of research into primary materials. He also published "Robert E. Lee: an Album" in 2000.

Thomas served on the editorial board of the "Encyclopedia of the Confederacy" (1993) and and was the subject of a festschrift, "Inside the Confederate Nation: Essays in Honor of Emory Thomas" (2005) edited by Lesley J. Gordon and John Inscoe. He was honored as a teacher who help attract history students to UGA, and he directed the work of 32 graduate students.