Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.: Memorial held in his honor at Cooper Union

Historians in the News

Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. was remembered yesterday as a pre-eminent historian, a lifelong liberal and a father who danced with his daughter and watched Sergeant Bilko with a son.

At a memorial service in the Great Hall at Cooper Union, in Lower Manhattan, historians, diplomats and a former president mingled with surviving New Frontiersmen of the Kennedy White House to recall the lasting contributions of Mr. Schlesinger, who died on Feb. 28 at the age of 89. The event filled the 900-seat Great Hall, where, as several speakers noted, Abraham Lincoln defined his presidential candidacy in 1860.

Among the speakers was the Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, who called Mr. Schlesinger “the most formidable American historian of his generation.”

“A great scholar,” Professor Wilentz said, “can set the standard about a key period of history. Arthur did so, amazingly, for three: the age of Jackson, the age of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the thousand days of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.”

William J. vanden Heuvel, who was an aide to Robert F. Kennedy at the Justice Department, said of Mr. Schlesinger: “His strength, his optimism, his leadership refreshed the liberal soul in bad times and held it to its highest standards in good. He was an unrepentant New Dealer to the final day of his life. ‘The people’ mattered. It was their welfare that government was about.”

His oldest son, Stephen, recalled that Mr. Schlesinger had drawn the children into political luncheons but had also played tennis and watched Sergeant Bilko with him on the old television comedy “The Phil Silvers Show.” And the historian’s daughter, Christina Schlesinger, said, “He wasn’t called ‘the dancing professor’ for nothing.”

Former President Bill Clinton said Mr. Schlesinger’s writing had gained from his experience in the arena of politics, which gave him a “feel for the difficulty of the political enterprise.”...

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