The Office of the Historian learned late last week that Robert V. Remini died on March 28 at the age of 91. Remini, who served as Historian of the House from 2005 until 2010, was the award-winning biographer of nineteenth-century political giants such as Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster.
Born in New York City in July 1921, Remini earned his undergraduate degree at Fordham University and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war, Remini received a M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University where the great political historian Richard Hofstadter encouraged him to study the career of Martin Van Buren. Remini wrote his dissertation under the celebrated Thomas Jefferson biographer, Dumas Malone. The book which resulted, Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party (1959), cast a keen light on an under-appreciated political career, and was well received.
Remini went on to write or edit more than two dozen works, including a definitive three-volume biography on Andrew Jackson. The third volume of Remini's series, Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1835–1845, won the National Book Award prize for non-fiction in 1984.
Professor Remini taught at Fordham University for a decade before moving to the newly established University of Illinois at Chicago to serve as the first chair of the school's history department. Along the way, he received numerous awards for his writing and teaching, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the U.S. Capitol Historical Society's Freedom Award.
After a long career in academia, Remini was chosen to write the single-volume history of the U.S. House of Representatives—a project authorized under the House Awareness and Preservation Act (P.L. 106-99). Remini produced the book while working as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar of American History in the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. The House: The History of the House of Representatives was published in 2006. Remini described it as a "narrative history of this extraordinary institution with its vivid and sometimes outrageous personalities."
In the spring of 2005, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois appointed Professor Remini to serve as the third Historian of the U.S. House of Representatives—filling a position that had been vacant for more than a decade. In 2010, reflecting on his work in re-establishing the office, Remini remarked, "This has been such an extraordinary opportunity. I wouldn't give it up for the world. When you get into the inner workings [of Congress] and you walk in the chamber itself and you talk to the people and learn what they are doing—you really have a sense of being part of history, not just writing about it."