June 29, 2011
Ray Boomhower: Think, read and talk about the present and the past

Each month, we ask an Indiana Humanities friend or partner how they think, read and talk. We feature that someone in the “How do you identify with the humanities” section of our e-newsletter. This month, it’s Ray E. Boomhower, senior editor of the Indiana Historical Society Press.

On July 21, Ray will be in Mitchell, Ind., as part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Gus Grissom’s mission onboard the Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft. At 6 p.m. in the auditorium of Mitchell High School, Ray will explore the tragedy that took the lives of Grissom and his fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee while conducting a ground test of their Apollo 1 spacecraft on January 27, 1967.  (This author talk is part of the Novel Conversations speakers series, which was generously funded by The Glick Fund, a  fund of Central Indiana Community Foundation. To find out more about author talks around the state, click here.) 

In Ray’s words:
Think: You can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. Everyone has a past. Discover it.
Read: Biographies, current nonfiction masters such as John McPhee and past craftsmen such as A. J. Liebling. Learn from the best.
Talk: Share knowledge if you have it. There’s nothing as fulfilling as inspiring others to learn. Everyone wants to know more. Help them do just that. You might just learn something in the process.

I am proud to say that I have the best job in the nineteenth state — deciding what will appear in the Indiana Historical Society’s illustrated history magazine Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History four times a year. Inspired by the work of those who have come before, including historians George Cottman, Jacob Piatt Dunn Jr., and John Bartlow Martin, I have attempted in my twenty-four years at the IHS to offer Hoosiers good narrative and analytical history about the state in its broader contexts of region and nation.

The bulk of my eleven books have been in the field of biography—writing about the life of notable Hoosiers and their contributions to the state and nation. I have taken the advice of David McCullough and have selected subjects that I have enjoyed spending time with while researching and writing. They have also had some ties to my own interests. As a space nut growing up in Mishawaka, Indiana, I gravitated toward the life of astronaut Gus Grissom, and produced the book Gus Grissom: The Lost Astronaut (2004). My background as a reporter at newspapers in Rensselaer and Anderson led to the biographies Jacob Piatt Dunn Jr.: A Life in History and Politics, 1855-1924 (1997) and The Soldier’s Friend: A Life of Ernie Pyle (2006). I have also written biographies of such Indiana originals as Lew Wallace, May Wright Sewall, John A. Bushemi, and Juliet Strauss. My two latest books have included an look at Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 campaign in Indiana (available through Novel Conversations) and the life and career of Alex Vraciu, a World War II ace for the U.S. Navy in the Pacific.

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