Author, Pulitzer Prize Winner. A prolific and popular writer who was known for his extensive research, he is remembered for his novel "Tales of the South Pacific" (1947), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1948, as well as his sweeping family sagas that covered the lives of many generations in particular geographic locales and incorporated historical facts into the stories, which included his major works "Hawaii" (1959, adapted into the 1966 film), "The Source" (1965), "Centennial" (1974, which was made into the popular 12-part NBC television miniseries that ran from October 1978 until February 1979), "Chesapeake" (1978), "Poland" (1983), "Texas" (1985), and "Alaska" (1988). Born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, he was raised by an adoptive mother. After graduating from Doylestown High School in 1925, he attended Swarthmore College near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he played basketball and graduated in 1929 with high honors. For the next two years, he traveled and studied in Europe. He returned home and took a job as a high school English teacher at The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and in 1933 later he taught English for three years at George School, in Newtown, Pennsylvania. He then attended Colorado State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Colorado) in Greely, Colorado, where he earned his Master's Degree and taught there for several years. In 1939 he went to Harvard University at Cambridge, Massachusetts for a one-year teaching stint and then he left teaching to join Macmillan Publishers as their social studies education editor. After the US entered World War II in December 1941, he was called to active duty and served in the US Navy as a lieutenant. He traveled throughout the South Pacific Ocean on various missions that were assigned to him because his commanders thought he was the son of Admiral Marc Mitscher. His travels became the setting for his breakout novel "Tales of the South Pacific" (1947), which became the basis for the Broadway play and film musical "South Pacific" by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. In the 1950s he tried his hand at writing for television but found little success in that medium, except for the television series "Adventures in Paradise" that ran from 1959 until 1962. During this time, he began working as a roving editor for "Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature" until 1970. His other notable fiction novels include "The Fires of Spring" (1949), "Return to Paradise" (1950, adapted into the 1953 film), "The Bridges at Toko-ri" (1953, adapted into film the same year), "Sayonara" (1954, adapted into the 1957 film that won four Academy Awards), "Caravans" (1963, adapted into the 1978 film), "The Drifters" (1971), the Covenant" (1980), "Space" (1982, which was adapted into a 1985 television miniseries), Caribbean" (1989), "Journey" (1989), "The Novel" (1991), "Mexico" (1992), and "Recessional" (1994). His nonfiction books include "The Voice of Asia" (1951), "The Bridge at Andau" (1957), "Rascals in Paradise" (1957), "Iberia" (1968), and "The Eagle and the Raven" (1990). In 1977 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan for his contributions to literature. In 1992 he published his memoir "The World Is My Home." In 1993 he began undergoing daily treatment for dialysis and in October 1997 he terminated it. He died of kidney failure in Austin, Texas at the age of 90. During his lifetime, he contributed over 40 literary works, selling an estimated 75 million copies worldwide. The James A. Michener Art Museum, named in his honor, was opened in 1988 in his hometown of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. In May 2008 the US Postal Service honored him with a 59-cent Distinguished Americans series postage stamp.
Bio by: William Bjornstad