James Michener was a well-known short story writer and author of his time, most recognized for his epic and thorough writings that eventually became characterized as fictitious documentaries. What set him apart from other writers of his period was his meticulous attention to detail and thorough examination of everything, from the geology and flora of the area to the disposition and temperament of the people who lived there. Michener’s writings were known for their exact and thorough descriptions of every small and minute detail. For the same reason, he frequently stayed in a place for an extended period of time to learn about its geology, culture, and people. He traveled much during his lifetime and used his travel experiences to compose books and short stories. He wrote 40 publications over the years, including the texts for five art books. His work has been translated into every major language in the globe, and it is estimated that 75 million copies have been sold globally. Read the following lines to learn more about his life, childhood, works, and timeline.
Childhood and Adolescence
Except for the fact that he was reared as a Quaker by his adopted mother, Mabel Michener, in Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, little is known about James Albert Michener’s early life and upbringing. On February 3, 1907, he is said to have been born.
Doylestown High School was where Michener received his early schooling, and he graduated in 1925. Following that, he enrolled at Swarthmore College, where he played basketball.
He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity at college. At college, he majored in English and psychology. He traveled to Europe and studied for a number of years after graduating with honors from the college summa cum laude in 1929.
Career of James A. Michener
His first job was at The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, where he taught high school English. In 1933, he transferred to George School in Newtown, Pennsylvania, where he remained for three years, until 1936.
He began his master’s degree program at Colorado State Teachers College in 1936. He taught at the institution for a while after finishing his degree before taking a year out to teach at Harvard from 1939 to 1940. He was an Assistant Visiting Professor of History at Harvard University.
He left Harvard in 1940 to work for Macmillan Publishers as a social studies education editor. He could not stay in the role for long because he was drafted into the United States Navy as a lieutenant during World War II.
He was entrusted with the profile of a naval historian while serving in the US Navy, which allowed him to travel across the South Pacific Ocean. These journeys later served as the inspiration and setting for his novel, ‘Tales of the South Pacific.’
‘Tales of the South Pacific,’ a novel, was released in 1947 to widespread praise and critical acclaim. It later served as the inspiration for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway and feature musical ‘South Pacific.’ The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction the following year.
Following the popularity of his debut novel, he published his second book, ‘The Fires of Spring,’ in 1949, which was an autobiography. Three novels followed: ‘The Return to Paradise,’ ‘The Bridges of Toko-ri,’ and ‘Sayonara.’
The novel ‘Hawaii,’ published in 1959, catapulted him to fame and made him a best-selling author. The novel was the first of a series of multi-generational historical novels for which he became famous.
In the meantime, in addition to penning novels, he attempted but failed to write for television. During these experiences, he was approached by television producer Bob Mann, who persuaded him to compose ‘Tales of the South Pacific,’ a weekly anthology series.
He focused on a different television series called ‘Adventures in Paradise’ after failing to get the television rights to ‘Tales of the South Pacific’ from Rodgers and Hammerstein.
He began working as a roaming editor for Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature near the end of the 1950s, a post he held until the 1970s. ‘The Source,’ his 1965 novel, was well-reviewed and featured his characteristic specialty of detailed detailing and study.
He spent a lot of time doing public service in addition to writing. He was head of the Bucks County committee that elected John F Kennedy in 1960.
He ran for a Democratic candidate’s position in the US House of Representatives two years later but was unsuccessful. He was the secretary of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention from 1967 to 1968.
From 1979 to 1983, he was a member of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Advisory Council for four years (NASA). He later took on different positions, including cultural ambassadorships to several nations, the US Postal Service’s advisory group, and the International Broadcasting Board.
In terms of literature, he changed his concentration to American landscapes in the latter half of his life and focused on them in his writings. ‘Centennial’ and ‘Chesapeake’ are two instances of such names.
NBC broadcasted a famous twelve-part television miniseries titled “The Centennial” from October 1978 to February 1979, which recorded the event.
While ‘The Covenant,’ published in 1980, was set in South Africa and dealt with apartheid, ‘Space,’ published in 1982, was a fictional portrayal of the US space program.
In 1992, he published two works: the first, ‘Mexico,’ a fictional reflection on current Mexico’s ongoing issues, and the second, ‘The World Is My Home,’ a memoir.
Achievements & Awards
In 1948, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
In 1954 and 1958, the National Association of Independent Schools honored him twice.
He received the Albert Einstein Award in 1967. He won the Bestsellers paperback of the Year Award the following year.
The Hungarian Studies Foundation awarded him with the George Washington Award in 1970.
He was awarded the renowned US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, in 1977.
The Printing Industries of Metropolitan New York presented him with the Franklin Award for meritorious service in 1980. Three years later, the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities honored him for his contributions to and support of the arts in the United States.
The British Museum awarded him a Lippincott Travelling Fellowship, and NASA awarded him a Distinguished Service Medal.
He was awarded the Order of Merit’s Golden Badge in 1988.
The US Navy Memorial Foundation honored him with the Lone Sailor Award in 1993 for his naval service and literary accomplishments.
Personal history and legacy
In his life, he married three times. In 1935, he married Patti Koon for the first time. However, the relationship did not last long, and he married Vange Nord, his second wife, in 1948. In 1955, his second marriage was annulled.
In the same year, he married Mari Yoriko Sabusawa, his third wife. In 1994, she passed away.
He stayed at the University of Texas in Austin till the end of his life. He stopped the daily dialysis treatment he had been receiving for four years in October. Due to kidney failure, he eventually passed away on the sixteenth of the month.
He was cremated and his remains were interred at Austin Memorial Park alongside his wife. He bequeathed much of his properties and works to Swarthmore College because he had no heirs.
He was philanthropic and generous, donating a large portion of his money to charitable causes. He is said to have given a total of $100 million in donations.
He contributed the royalties from the Canadian edition of his novel “Journey” to establish the Journey Prize, a $10,000 (Canadian) yearly literary prize given to the finest short story published by an emerging Canadian writer.
After his death, he was honored with a restaurant at the Iririki Island Resort and a suite at the Raffles Hotel Singapore.
Random House Publishing established an award for the finest first novel published by an author over the age of 40 in his honor.
In 2008, the United States Postal Service issued a 59-cent Distinguished Americans series postage stamp in his honor.
His alma institution, The University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado, has established a library in his honor.
James Michener’s Net Worth
James is one of the wealthiest novelists and one of the most well-known. James Michener’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.
This Pulitzer Prize winner and ‘Tales of the South Pacific’ author is said to have escaped three near-fatal aviation disasters.