Robert Caro, American Biographer, is born, 1935
On This Day in Jewish History: October 30th, 1935
On October 30, 1935, Jewish-American author and journalist Robert Caro, best known for penning the biographies of notable figures such as Robert Moses and Lyndon B. Johnson, was born in New York City. . As a child, Caro was a profound reader and writer, even publishing his own newspaper early on in grade school. He studied English at Princeton University, working as an editor on the campus newspaper and a short story writer for the school’s humor magazine.
After graduating, Caro picked up a job as a reporter for the New Brunswick Daily News, then later as an investigative reporter for Newsday. While working for Newsday, he became deeply interested in the career of the powerful NYC politician Robert Moses. Caro spent seven years researching Moses’s life, conducting interviews and studying his records. This work culminated in a 1200-page biography titled “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York,” published in 1974, which earned him his first Pulitzer Prize.
In 1982, Caro published the first volume in his series of books about the life of Lyndon B. Johnson: “The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power.” Modern Library named it one of the greatest nonfiction books of the 20th century. Caro had a unique, in-depth process to conduct research for his works, including moving with his wife, Ina, to Johnson’s childhood home of Texas Hill Country. Prior to the release of his first book in the Johnson series, he lived there for three years to familiarize himself with the environment. Following the success of this first book, which explored Johnson’s life from birth to World War II, Caro released his second, “The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent,” in 1990. This volume was followed by two more in 2003 and 2012, respectively. Each addressed a different period of Johnson’s life, as the first two had. His most recent book, published in 2019 and titled “Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing” recounted his writing process. Caro’s fifth and final Johnson biography, which explores the latter parts of his presidency; The Great Society and the war in Vietnam, is forthcoming.
Robert Caro has been recognized with a plethora of awards throughout his career. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes, one for each of his biographical collections, three National Book Critics Circle awards, the 2016 National Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, and he was the recipient of President Obama’s National Humanities Medal in 2010, just to name a few of his accomplishments. He recently donated his papers to the New York Historical Society of which an exhibition is currently taking place. His reputation for scrupulous research and detail has been defined within certain circles as “Caro-esque.” He is often credited with reinventing modern political biography.
McGrath, Charles (April 12, 2012). "Robert Caro's Big Dig". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 15, 2012. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
Alex Shephard, Theodore Ross (December 1, 2016). ""There's No Check on Trump Except Reality": A Q&A with Wayne Barrett". New Republic.
Christopher Buckley (2014). But Enough About You: Essays. Simon & Schuster. p. 300. ISBN 978-1-4767-4952-5.