John Willingham is the author of historical fiction set in texas and essays on major texas literary figures. He has been a regular op-ed contributer to the History news network and has edited four books on public university honors colleges, cited in the new york times. His "Whither Texas" blog on this site provides commentary on texas politics and culture.
An enthusiastic hunter as a young, seventh generation texan who grew up around firearms, John is now a strong supporter of common-sense gun reforms in the u.S., especially in the wake of the horrible murders in Uvalde, Texas. Here is his essay on gun culture: "the real sickness in America."
In April 2023, the Southwestern historical quarterly will publish his comprehensive essay "Should we 'Forget the Alamo'?: Myths, slavery, and the texas Revolution." The essay reexamines major arguments about the role of slavery in causing the revolution and responds to the assertion that the battle of the alamo was fought primarily to defend the institution of slavery.
He was the author of the lead essay in the 100th anniversary issue of southwest review (cover to the left). about the works of John Graves and Larry McMurty. (An excerpt is on the next page.) John's new novel, the last woman, was inspired by the life of Frenchy McCormick, a woman who overcame the travails of frontier america. She is known as "The last of the Golden Girls of the old West," but the phrase does not do her justice. As with all novels, the story is essentially fiction, but it follows the basic timeline and travels of the real Frenchy's life. Readers will find historically accurate descriptions of 19th century Baton Rouge, St. Louis, Dodge City, and the wild cowtown of Tascosa, Texas. In the novel, the heroine's name is Frenchy McGinnis.
John is currently writing another novel about two rebel soldiers and a mixed-race woman whose paths cross during the Civil War but take dramatic turns when they all meet again four years later amid the chaos of post-war Texas. The woman, Lucy, was inspired by the nineteenth century radical Lucy Parsons.
JOHN HAS A BA WITH HONORS AND AN MA IN AMERICAN HISTORY FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN. FOR TWENTY YEARS HE WAS AN ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATOR IN TEXAS AND SERVED AS AN OBSERVER AND FACILITATOR IN BOSNIA FOR THE 1998 GENERAL ELECTIONS. IN 2002, HE WAS A MEMBER OF A NATIONAL TASK FORCE ON ELECTION REFORM. AFter residing ten years in PORTLAND, OREGON, HE has returned to Texas and NOW LIVES near Austin.