Jack Temple Kirby (August 22, 1938 – August 6, 2009) was an American historian who wrote about the Southern United States and the persistent stereotyping of Southerners. He was awarded the Bancroft Prize for his 2006 book Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes of the South.
Early life and education
Kirby was born on August 22, 1938, in Portsmouth, Virginia, his ancestors having immigrated to the South in the 17th century, by family tradition. Throughout his college education he majored in history, earning his bachelor's degree at Old Dominion University and then attending the University of Virginia, where he was awarded a master's degree and a doctorate.
Professionally, Kirby was hired in 1965 to serve on the faculty of Miami University, where he was professor of history until his retirement in 2002. He also served as president of the Southern Historical Association.
In his published works — he authored or edited seven books — Kirby tried to dispel the sweeping generalizations of Southerners from books that he felt were aimed at "making Northern white folks feel good about themselves by telling the same story over and over again about the South". His 1978 book Media-Made Dixie took issue with the portrayal of Southerners using "clichés of racists, graceful landed gentry, poverty, homespun rural values, stock-car racers and moonshiners". Rather than focusing on the South as it really exists, the books shows depictions from the dawn of the cinema and the creation of best seller lists, starting at D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation.
His 2006 book Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes of the South, published by the North Carolina University Press was awarded the Bancroft Prize in 2007 by jurors at Columbia University as a book that is set in the South but has far greater reach and speaks "profoundly on the relationships of Americans — and of humankind — to the natural world".
Kirby died at age 70 of heart failure on August 6, 2009, in St. Augustine, Florida. He was survived by Dr. Constance Pierce, an English professor at Miami University who was Kirby's companion for 17 years, as well as by a daughter, a son and two grandchildren. His first marriage ended with his divorce of the former Ann Bulleit.
- Hevesi, Dennis. "Jack T. Kirby, Southern Historian, Dies at 70", The New York Times, August 13, 2009. Accessed August 14, 2009.
- Trippett, Frank. "Is It True What They Say?", Time (magazine), May 8, 1978. Accessed August 15, 2009.
- The Bancroft Prizes: Previous Awards Archived July 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Columbia University. Accessed August 15, 2009.
- LMK. "Columbia Announces 2007 Bancroft Prize Winners Esteemed Historians Robert D. Richardson and Jack Temple Kirby to Receive Awards", Columbia University press release, April 20, 2007. Accessed August 15, 2009.