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James Alan McPherson (1943 - 2016)

Getty / Anthony Barboza

James Alan McPherson (1943 - 2016)

Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Alan McPherson died July 27, 2016, in a hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, according to multiple news sources. He was 72.

The cause of death was reportedly complications of pneumonia.

McPherson won the Pulitzer Prize in 1978 for “Elbow Room,” a 1977 collection of short stories. He was the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.


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The author, who was born Sept. 16, 1943, in Savannah, Georgia, was a former longtime instructor at the esteemed Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. He retired from his teaching position in 2014. He was a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship.

An update on Facebook by Allen Gee, McPherson’s biographer and a former student, says, “It is with profound sadness that I write to tell you that James has passed away. He was with Rachel, his daughter, and Benjamin, his son, and many friends and former students. Thank you to everyone who sent messages to Mercy Hospital. We read them all aloud to James, and they were deeply appreciated.”

“I thought he was the heart and soul of the workshop,” Christopher Merrill, director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, told the Iowa City Press-Citizen. “We’ve lost a giant today."

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