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UAlbany Libraries Acquire Joseph E. Persico Papers

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Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 437-4980
Joseph E. Persico
Joseph E. Persico

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 22, 2006) -- The University at Albany has acquired the papers of Joseph E. Persico, the best-selling author of Roosevelt's Secret War, Edward R. Murrow: An American Original, The Imperial Rockefeller, and co-author of former Secretary of State Colin Powell's autobiography My American Journey, as well as other acclaimed works of history and biography.

Persico's personal and professional papers, documents, memorabilia, and speeches, many written during his 11 years as a speechwriter for Governor and later Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, will be stored in the University at Albany Libraries' M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives. The collection will serve as a resource for scholarly research on Persico's literary career, and on the subjects of his many works.

In recognition of Persico's career accomplishments, service, and donations to UAlbany, the University has established an annual Joseph E. Persico '52 Scholarship for undergrads and the Joseph E. Persico '52 Fellowship Fund for graduate students of American history.

"I've always felt a deep attachment to my alma mater," said Persico, a 1952 graduate. "There I studied history and English with outstanding teachers who provided me with the ideal preparation for the profession I was to follow. The donation of my papers is a small repayment of my debt of gratitude to the university."

"Joseph Persico has enriched American life and letters with his prodigious talent and commitment to the truth, and in so doing has taught us a great deal, not just about our history, but about ourselves as a people," said University at Albany President Kermit L. Hall. "It is an enormous honor that we now safeguard his history for the use of students and scholars."

The Collection
The collection, totaling some 40 cubic feet, includes original long-hand manuscripts and revised versions of the author's books; correspondence with editors and publishers at Random House, Simon & Schuster, Viking, and McGraw-Hill and with fellow authors; interviews conducted for The Imperial Rockefeller, a biography of the New York governor and U.S. vice president; correspondence and memos between the governor and Persico; interviews with prosecutors, defense lawyers, victims and relatives for his book Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial; correspondence relating to his book on President Franklin D. Roosevelt; interviews with American secret agents who penetrated Germany during World War II for the writing of Piercing the Reich; and original drafts of numerous articles and book reviews written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Heritage, and Military History Quarterly.

The collection also includes videos and tapes of Persico's media appearances, including "Newshour with Jim Lehrer," "Book Notes" on C-Span, the "Today Show," "Good Morning America," the "History Channel," PBS's "The American Experience," NPR, "Oliver North War Stories," "Larry King Live," and A&E "Biography." Also included are tapes of interviews with dozens of subjects, among them Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Bob Woodward, Arthur Goldberg, William Safire, Richard Helms, William J. Casey, William F. Buckley, and John Huston.

Early Years
Persico was born in Gloversville, New York, in 1930. After receiving a bachelor's degree in English and political science in 1952 from the University at Albany, he entered the U.S. Navy and served as an officer aboard a minesweeper, as well as with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) headquarters in Naples, Italy. In 1956, Persico began his political writing career, serving Governor Averill Harriman of New York. He then became a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in Argentina, Brazil, and Washington. Between 1963 and 1966, Persico served as the speechwriter for Hollis Ingraham, the New York State Health Commissioner.

By 1966, Joseph Persico had become the chief speechwriter for New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Continuing in this position for another seven years, he remained Rockefeller's primary speechwriter as the governor assumed the office of the vice presidency of the United States from 1975 to 1977.

By 1977, Persico had transitioned into a full-time writer, focusing on historical subjects. In that year, his Civil War book, My Enemy My Brother: Men and Days of Gettysburg, was released. Two years later he followed up this work with a novel, The Spiderweb, and a nonfiction work, Piercing the Reich: The Penetration of Nazi Germany by American Secret Agents During World War II. In 1982, Persico focused on Nelson Rockefeller's life and published the biography The Imperial Rockefeller. During the 1990s he created other historical works on both American espionage and the post-World War II Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. These works included Casey: From the OSS to the CIA and Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial. Persico also targeted renowned broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow for a biography in 1990. Beside books, the author has also published numerous articles on American history.

Recent Work
More recently, Persico collaborated with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Powell's best-selling 1995 autobiography. Joseph E. Persico continues to publish books on historical subjects. In November 2001, Random House released Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage and in 2004 published Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918, World War I and Its Violent Climax.

In what he refers to as one of his proudest moments, Persico served on the commission that oversaw the design of the new National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., and penned two inscriptions for the memorial, including, "Here we mark the price of freedom" inscribed on the Field of Gold Stars.

Joseph E. Persico is married to University at Albany alumna, class of 1969, Sylvia Lavista Persico.


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