Richard Brookhiser

Richard Brookhiser

Richard Brookhiser, 2011
Born (1955-02-23) February 23, 1955
Irondequoit New York
Occupation Journalist, author, editor, historian
Known for National Review

Richard Brookhiser (born February 23, 1955) is an American journalist, biographer and historian. He is a senior editor at National Review. He is most widely known for a series of biographies of America's founders, including Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, and George Washington.

Life and career

Brookhiser was born in Irondequoit, a suburb north of Rochester, New York.[1] His father worked for Eastman Kodak in Rochester and was a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps during World War II.[2] He has written books that deal either with the nation's founding, or the principles of America's founders, including What Would the Founders Do?, a book describing how the founding fathers would approach topical issues that generate controversy in modern-day America.

Brookhiser began writing for National Review in 1970. "My first article, on antiwar protests in my high school, was a cover story in National Review in 1970, when I was 15." [3] He earned an A.B. degree (1977) at Yale,[1] where he was active in the Yale Political Union as a member and sometime Chairman of the Party of the Right. In his freshman year he took a class on Thomas Jefferson taught by Garry Wills. Although admitted to Yale Law School, Brookhiser went to work full-time for National Review in 1977; by the time he was 23, he was a senior editor, the youngest in the magazine's history. He was selected as the successor to the magazine's founder, William F. Buckley, until Buckley ultimately changed his mind. For a short time he wrote speeches for Vice President George H.W. Bush.

He has written for a variety of magazines and newspapers. Brookhiser's work has appeared in the "Talk of the Town" section of The New Yorker magazine as well as in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, The Atlantic Monthly, Time, and Vanity Fair. In 1987 he began a column for The New York Observer which he wrote until 2007.

Brookhiser both wrote and hosted the documentary films Rediscovering George Washington, by Michael Pack, broadcast on PBS on July 4, 2002,[3] and Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton, also by Pack, broadcast on PBS on April 11, 2011. His book Alexander Hamilton, American[4] led to the "Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America" exhibition at The New-York Historical Society (2004–2005), exhibition for which he was the historian curator. He received an honorary doctorate degree in 2005 from Washington College.[3][5]

In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded Brookhiser the National Humanities Medal in a White House ceremony.

Cancer and marijuana use

Brookhiser became ill with testicular cancer in 1992 and smoked marijuana to alleviate nausea from chemotherapy. (Before that, he had smoked marijuana in college about ten times, he said.)[6]

"Because of the marijuana, my last two courses of chemotherapy were almost nausea-free", he said in 1996. "My cancer is gone now, I was lucky."[6]

On March 6, 1996, he testified before a Congressional committee about using marijuana, urging the committee members to support decriminalization of marijuana for medical purposes.[6]

"My support for medical marijuana is not a contradiction of my principles, but an extension of them", Brookhiser told the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime. "I am for law and order. But crime has to be fought intelligently and the law disgraces itself when it harasses the sick. I am for traditional virtues, but if carrying your beliefs to unjust ends is not moral, it is philistine."[6]


He lives in Manhattan[6] (East Village) with his wife, Jeanne Safer, a psychotherapist and author, most recently, of The Normal One.[7] They also have a home in Ulster County in the Catskills. They married September 12, 1980.[1]



  1. 1 2 3 "Richard Brookhiser" (fee). Contemporary Authors Online. Thomson Gale. 2007-08-21. Retrieved 2008-07-06. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008. Document Number: H1000111697
  2. "See, now they vanish, the faces and places". Retrieved 2011-06-20.
  3. 1 2 3 "Richard Brookhiser". Retrieved 2008-07-06. Biography page of Mr. Brookhiser's website.
  4. Brookhiser, Richard (1999). Alexander Hamilton, American. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0684863316.
  5. Holtsberry, Kevin (2003-09-12). "An Interview with Richard Brookhiser". Archived from the original on October 5, 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-06.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 "National Review Senior Editor Richard Brookhiser's Congressional Testimony (1996)". National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Retrieved 2008-07-06. excerpted from testimony Mr. Brookhiser presented before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, on March 6, 1996 in support of the efficacy of medical marijuana
  7. An NRO Symposium on Pat Buckley on National Review Online Jeanne Safer, "Symposium: Pat Buckley, R.I.P." Web page, April 17, 2007 at National Review Online Web site, accessed April 18, 2007
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