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Historian/Author Thomas Fleming Speaks at Inaugural Lecture in the Humanities

The inaugural Lecture in the Humanities was held on April 3 in The Duncan Family Sky Room in the Mac Mahon Student Center “to highlight the importance of a liberal arts education in today’s world,” according to Marylou Yam, Ph.D., provost and academic vice president of Saint Peter’s University. The event featured Historian/Author Thomas Fleming as the guest speaker.

Born and raised in Jersey City, Fleming graduated from St. Peter’s Preparatory School and subsequently served in the United States Navy. He went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from Fordham University in 1950 and began his writing career as a newspaperman and magazine editor before his first history book, Now We Are Enemies – an account of the Battle of Bunker Hill – was published in 1960. Since then, Fleming has published numerous books – both fiction and non-fiction. His writings about his Jersey City, Irish-American, Catholic background, as well as his biographies of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, have received critical acclaim.

During his lecture, Fleming focused on “encounters with history,” in particular, his past experiences of being an Irish American Catholic in Jersey City.

“My first encounter with history took place in a parking lot outside Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, when I was seven-years-old.,” Fleming said. “My father steered me around three or four puddles to introduce me to a tall, well-dressed man walking toward a Cadillac limousine.”

He continued, “’Mayor,’ my father said. ‘I’d like you to meet my son.’” Fleming’s father was a leader in Jersey City politics for three decades, starting in the 1920s. At the time, the city was dominated by an Irish political machine, which Fleming witnessed firsthand due to his family’s involvement with the government. He recalled the goings-on in City Hall during that time as being a “classic example of what Irish-Americans called nerve – a readiness to take chances.”

Fleming also discussed his experiences while writing his various books, such as Rulers of the City, The Last Hurrah and The New Dealers’ War.

Fleming concluded his lecture, a recollection of his personal memories mixed with American history – both filled with trials and tribulations – by saying, “Remember and forgive. It might turn out to be a good formula for resolving a lot of the tensions that are threatening America’s unity today. It allows us all to retain our ethnic roots – without foregoing our American lives.”