College of Arts & Sciences
Candidate for the Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters
Wil Haygood is a Pulitzer nominee, award-winning author, and reporter. Best known as the author of the New York Times bestseller The Butler: A Witness to History, Haygood is a distinguished writer whose career has spanned decades. Translated into over a dozen languages, The Butler is the story of Eugene Allen, the White House butler who served U.S. presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan. Haygood was an associate producer on the film adaptation of the book, which featured several Academy Award winners and received two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actor (Forest Whitaker) and Outstanding Supporting Actor (David Oyelowo). After viewing the film, President Barack Obama said, “I teared up thinking about not just the butlers who worked here in the White House but an entire generation of people.” President Jimmy Carter described the film as “one of the best dramatizations of the Civil Rights Movement I have seen.”
Haygood worked for 30 years at two of the most premiere newspapers in America, the Boston Globe and the Washington Post. During that time, he witnessed Nelson Mandela’s release after 27 years of imprisonment, was taken hostage by Somalian rebels, covered New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina for 33 straight days without a break, traveled with President Obama, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
He has been described as a cultural historian and is the author of a quartet of iconic biographies. His King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., told the story of the enigmatic New York congressman and was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. After publication of a family memoir, The Haygoods of Columbus: A Love Story, he penned In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr., which received several prestigious awards. In 2009, he wrote Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson about the famed New York boxer known as much for his prowess in the ring as his elegant style outside of it.
Haygood’s latest book, Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America, details the real-life events surrounding the heated appointment of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice. The book received praise from the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. It won various awards and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, an Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, and the Benjamin Hooks National Book Award. In addition, it was named one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, National Public Radio, the Boston Globe, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Booklist, and Baltimore, magazine.
Raised by a single mother in Columbus, Ohio, Haygood became the first in his family to receive a college degree and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from Miami University in Ohio. He is the recipient of numerous personal awards and honors, including the New England Associated Press Award, the Virginia Press Association Award, and the National Association of Black Journalists Award, to name only a few. He is a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, an Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellow, and a Pulitzer Prize Finalist. Haygood is currently the Wiepking Visiting Distinguished Professor in the department of media, journalism, and film at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.