Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Wil Haygood, Author of The Butler: A Witness to History, Speaks on Campus April 7

Jones Auditorium - 04/07/14 - 04/07/14

Contact: Jason Marton
jason.marton@tamuk.edu or


The 2013-2014 University Lectureship Series continues at Texas A&M University-Kingsville with a presentation from acclaimed author and Washington Post reporter Wil Haygood, the writer behind the nonfiction book The Butler: A Witness to History and associate producer of the movie adaptation starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey.

The presentation is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, April 7 at Jones Auditorium. It is free and open to the public.

A question and answer session and book signing will follow the lecture; both will take place in Jones Auditorium. Books will be available for purchase.

Haygood’s inspiration for the celebrated story came from an early hunch that Barack Obama would win the 2008 election. When he did, Haygood wanted to publish an article about a black person who had worked in the White House as a servant, someone who had come of age when segregation was so widespread, so embedded in the culture as to make the very thought of a black president inconceivable. He struck gold when he tracked down Eugene Allen, a butler who had served no less than eight presidents, from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan.

The Butler: A Witness to History explored Allen’s lifelong journey, from his birth in 1919 on a southern plantation to his years in service at the White House; it is also a broader examination of the history of African Americans in film.

For more information on this University Lectureship Series event, call 361-593-3606. 

About Wil Haygood   

Raised in a poor family and the first of his family to attend college, Haygood went on to become the author of five nonfiction books, including a trilogy of biographies of iconic 20th-century figures hailed as “culturally important” by The Los Angeles Times: King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell Jr., a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr., a multiple award winner; and Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson, named a Best Book of the Year by Forbes, The Chicago Tribune, Parade and Mosaic. His other books are Two on the River—about a 2,500-mile journey down the Mississippi River—and The Haygoods of Columbus: A Family Memoir.

Haygood's journalism career has been equally notable. For 17 years, he was a national and foreign correspondent for The Boston Globe, where he became a Pulitzer Prize finalist. In 1990, while covering the civil war in Somalia, he was taken hostage by rebels and eventually released with the aid of Pakistani troops. On another foreign assignment, he found himself standing outside the South African prison when freedom fighter Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years of imprisonment.

In 2002, Haygood joined The Washington Post as a national writer. He was one of the first journalists to make it into New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck, a story which he covered for 33 straight days without a break. In 2008, he traveled with Barack Obama. His long career as a reporter covering both national and global affairs makes him an authority on addressing these issues in keynote speeches.

Wil Haygood has been a Yaddo Guest Artist, an Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellow, and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. He has been a visiting writer at the University of Georgia, Ohio State University and Colorado College.

In 2013, Wil Haygood was honored with the prestigious Ella Baker Award, named after the civil rights pioneer. The judges cited Haygood's literary career "for shedding a light on those who give much, but are little noticed." He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters by Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in 2013. 

About the University Lectureship Series

The University Lectureship Series at Texas A&M University-Kingsville is a student-supported program that was created in order to invite guest speakers to present relevant or entertaining topics for our campus and Kingsville community. Known nationally or regionally for their expertise, invited speakers will educate, inform, and engage our students and help them to make meaning of theories they are learning in their classrooms."


This page was last updated on: June 24, 2014