HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University will host a symposium focused on the work of acclaimed author and political scientist Jean Edward Smith beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 1, at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center.
The Jean Edward Smith Memorial Symposium, which will take place on the second anniversary of Smith’s passing, is presented by the Office of the President, the John Deaver Drinko Academy and the Simon Perry Center for Constitutional Democracy.
The featured speakers are nationally syndicated columnist, political commentator, and author George F. Will; Simon & Schuster vice president and executive editor Robert Bender; retired William and Mary historian, documentary editor and author Charles F. Hobson; and Princeton University professor of politics and author Jan-Werner Müller.
Smith, called “one of the most admired biographers of his time” by The Washington Post and “today’s foremost biographer of formidable figures in American history,” by Will, wrote several highly regarded and award-winning books, including John Marshall: Definer of a Nation; Grant, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2002; and FDR, which won the Francis J. Parkman Prize of the Society of American Historians as 2007’s best book on American history.
Smith joined Marshall’s faculty after retiring from the University of Toronto, where he taught for 35 years. At Marshall, Smith served as the John Marshall Professor of Political Science and was named a Drinko Fellow. Smith earned an A. B. from Princeton University in 1954 and doctorate in public law and government from Columbia University in 1964.
Patricia Proctor, director of the Simon Perry Center for Constitutional Democracy and one of the event organizers, said, “We are honored to be hosting an event to focus on the important work of Jean Edward Smith, and delighted with the distinguished scholars coming to participate. We are eager to hear their insights regarding Professor Smith and his work.”
The symposium will feature Will, a Pulitzer Prize-winning nationally syndicated columnist. Will is the author of 16 books, including eight collections of his Newsweek and Washington Post columns, three on political theory, and three about baseball. His 16th book, American Happiness and Discontents: The Unruly Torrent, 2008-2020, will be published in September. Will is a former contributing editor of Newsweek magazine and the former Washington editor of National Review magazine. He also was a panel member on ABC television’s “This Week” for over three decades before moving to Fox News, where he appeared on “Special Report” and “Fox News Sunday” for three years.
The symposium will also include Bender, Smith’s editor at Simon & Schuster, where he is a vice president and executive editor. Bender publishes a wide range of nonfiction, with a concentration on history, biography, and current events, including dozens of bestselling and award-winning books.
Hobson will focus on Smith’s work on John Marshall. Hobson is a retired historian and documentary editor, affiliated for many years with the College of William and Mary, including serving as resident scholar at the William and Mary School of Law. From 1979 to 2006, Hobson was principal editor of The Papers of John Marshall, a twelve-volume edition of Marshall’s correspondence, papers, and selected judicial opinions. His one-volume edition, John Marshall: Writings, was published by the Library of America in 2010. Hobson is the author of The Great Chief Justice: John Marshall and the Rule of Law (1996) and The Great Yazoo Lands Sale: The Case of Fletcher v. Peck (2016).
Müller, the Roger Williams Straus Professor of Social Sciences at Princeton University, will discuss the import and relevance of Smith’s first and last books: The Defense of Berlin, published in 1963 and describing events that led to the building of the Berlin Wall, and The Liberation of Paris: How Eisenhower, de Gaulle, and von Choltitz Saved the City of Light, published in 2019. Müller’s books include Democracy Rules (2021) and What is Populism? (2016), which has been translated into 25 languages. He regularly writes for The Guardian and the London Review of Books.
The symposium is free and open to the public. Seating is limited, however, and must be reserved in advance using Eventbrite. The event is listed as Jean Edward Smith Memorial Symposium. Guests will be socially distanced, and masks will be required. The event will also be livestreamed and can be accessed online at www.marshall.edu/it/livestream