By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
JEFFERSON, Iowa, July 20, 2021 — When the Greene County Historical Society learned that native son Chuck Holden, a college history professor teaching in Maryland and the author of three books of history, was spending the summer here, the group asked if they could interrupt his plans for an hour or so – for a conversation with their members and other homefolks.
That happens this Sunday, July 25, at 2 p.m. at the historical museum in Jefferson. The event and refreshments are free and open to the public.
“I think I’ll talk a bit on how I ended up being an historian, give a couple ‘origins’ stories on my books, and then broaden out to talk about the importance of knowing — and facing up to — our history,” Holden said. “For the last part, I plan to review a couple of moments in U.S. history where some Americans embraced conspiracies over facts, and how those moments did not serve the country very well.” As examples, he cited the secession crisis leading to the Civil War and McCarthyism in the 1950s.
Holden, 59, grew up in the Scranton area, the son of Edward Holden and Mary Ann Brunner Holden. He graduated from Scranton High School in the 24-member Class of 1980, did his undergraduate studies in business at St. John’s University in Minnesota, earned his master’s in history at Creighton University in Omaha and his doctorate at Penn State University. He taught initially at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and is now in his 22nd year at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
St. Mary’s is a small public college, with an enrollment of about 1,300 students, in the Maryland state university system. It’s located in the historic village of St. Mary’s City, which served for a time as the colonial capital of Maryland, located 75 miles south of Washington, D.C., near the confluence of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. The community dates to the 1630s.
His teaching specialization includes 19th and 20th U.S. history; the Great Depression and New Deal, and the Civil War era. His latest book, published in 2019, is “Republican Populist: Spiro Agnew and the Origins of Donald Trump’s America,” which has earned favorable reviews in publications across the country. (Agnew was U.S. vice-president in the Nixon administration and resigned in scandal, and earlier had served as governor of Maryland.)
Holden’s earlier books are “In the Great Maelstrom: Conservatives in Post-Civil War South Carolina,” published in 2002, and “The New Southern University: Academic Freedom and Liberalism at the University of North Carolina,” in 2011.
This summer, he’s started research and interviewing on a possible book about the roots of investigative journalism, and how it changed after coverage of the Watergate in the Nixon years.
Holden said that at his presentation Sunday, besides his reflections about his long career in the field of history, he’ll be glad to take questions from the audience.
He and his four siblings grew up on a “century-plus” farm outside Scranton. His brother Mike Holden now farms it. He also has sisters Rosemary Hoyt, of Jefferson; Mary Jo Kluesner, of Ames, and Ann Kendell, of Des Moines.
Chuck Offenburger, of rural Cooper, is a member of the board of directors of the historical society. You can reach him by email at chuck@Offenburger.com.