Michael Nelson is the Fulmer Professor of Political Science at Rhodes College and a Senior Fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. He has published twenty-five books on the presidency, elections, the bureaucracy, public policy, and liberal education with Johns Hopkins University Press, Cornell University Press, Louisiana State University Press, Duke University Press, Vanderbilt University Press, Alfred A. Knopf, Congressional Quarterly Press, and other publishers. He also has written nearly two hundred articles on a wide range of political, religious, literary, and cultural topics for scholarly journals and other periodicals. More than fifty of his articles have been reprinted in books of political science, history, sociology, sports, music, and English composition.
Nelson has won several writing, teaching, and research awards. He received the Jeffrey Nordhaus Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching at Vanderbilt University, where he taught as a tenured professor for twelve years and still teaches occasionally. He also won Vanderbilt’s Ellen Gregg Ingalls Award for excellence in teaching. His article on the Baltimore Orioles was included in the book Best Sports Stories 1979; another, on the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for music journalism. In 2001 he received Rhodes College’s Clarence Day Dean’s Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity. Nelson and his former Rhodes student and colleague, John Lyman Mason, won the Southern Political Science Association’s 2009 V.O. Key Award for Outstanding Book on Southern Politics for How the South Joined the Gambling Nation: The Politics of State Policy Innovation.
Nelson’s books on the presidency and vice presidency, listed in reverse chronological order, are: 41: Inside the George Bush Presidency: New Perspectives from Oral History, with Barbara A. Perry; The Presidency and the Political System, 10th ed. (forthcoming, 2014; previous editions 1984, 1988, 1991, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2010); Guide to the Presidency, 5th. ed. (2012; previous editions, 1988, 1996, 2003, 2008; Chinese translation: 2008); The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776-2011, with Sidney M. Milkis (2012; previous editions 1990, 1994, 1999, 2003, 2011); Governing at Home: The White House and Domestic Policymaking, with Russell L. Riley; The President’s Words: Speeches and Speechwriting in the Modern White House, with Russell L. Riley (2010); Debating the Presidency: Conflicting Perspectives on the American Executive, 2nd ed., with Richard J. Ellis (2010; previous edition in 2006); The Evolving Presidency: Landmark Documents, 1787-2011 (2011; previous editions, 1998, 2004, 2008); The Presidency A to Z, 4th ed. (2008; previous editions, 1993, 1998, 2003); The Presidency (1996); Historic Documents on the Presidency, 1776-1989 (1989) A Heartbeat Away (1988); and Presidents, Politics and Policy, with Erwin C. Hargrove (1984).
The Elections of 2012 (2013) marked the eighth in a series of postelection books that began with The Elections of 1984. His other books on elections are: Historic Documents on Presidential Elections 1787-1988 (1992) and Presidential Selection, with Alexander Heard (1987).
On the subject of liberal education, Nelson’s books are: Alive at the Core: Exemplary Approaches to General Education in the Humanities (2000); and Celebrating the Humanities: A Half-Century of the Search Course at Rhodes College (1996).
In addition to How the South Joined the Gambling Nation, Nelson and Mason coauthored Governing Gambling: Politics and Policy in State, Tribe, and Nation (2001). Nelson is the coeditor, with Ellis, of Debating Reform: Conflicting Perspectives on How to Fix the American Political System (2013; first edition, 2010)) as well as of The Culture of Bureaucracy, with Charles Peters (1979).
Nelson is currently working on a book about the 1968 election.
Nelson has published articles in multiple scholarly journals such as the Journal of Politics, Political Science Quarterly, Journal of Policy History; PS: Political Science and Politics, The Public Interest, Media Studies Journal, Popular Music and Society, Congress and the Presidency, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Tennessee Historical Quarterly.
In addition to his articles on political topics, Nelson has written lengthy articles about Charles Dickens, Frank Sinatra, Garrison Keillor, C. S. Lewis, Jonathan Edwards, Stephen L. Carter, Ward Just, the military academies, the Iliad, the Odyssey and Aeneid, liberal education, baseball, and music. A former writer-editor with the Washington Monthly and a frequent contributor to the Claremont Review of Books, he has published articles in a number of popular magazines, including Newsweek, Saturday Review, Legal Affairs, and the American Prospect. He also has written articles for newspapers such as the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Washington Post, and Baltimore Sun, and websites such as prospect.org, insidehighered.com, and hnn.us (History News Network). He wrote frequently for the Review section of the Chronicle of Higher Education, and was a blogger for its “Brainstorm” web site during the 2008 election. During the 2012 election he blogged for the Miller Center’s Riding the Tiger website.
Nelson created and served as editor of the Interpreting American Politics book series for Johns Hopkins University Press. He also created and, with Sewanee president John L. McCardell, edits the American Presidential Elections book series for the University Press of Kansas. He was the political analyst for WMC-TV in Memphis for fourteen years and was the host of “Informed Sources” on Memphis’s public television station, WKNO-TV. He has lectured to numerous academic, civic, business, legal, and religious audiences. He served two three-year terms as a faculty-elected member of the Rhodes board of trustees and two three-year terms as a board member of Humanities Tennessee. He also has served on boards of various programs at the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, and the University of Louisville.
Nelson earned his B.A. at the College of William and Mary (1971) and his M.A. (1974) and Ph.D (1978 at Johns Hopkins University. He is an active Episcopal layman and has served three terms as a vestry member at Calvary Episcopal Church in downtown Memphis, where he led the search for a new rector in 2012. He and his wife of thirty-two years, Linda E. Nelson, are the parents of two adult sons, Michael and Sam.
M.A. and Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University
B.A., College of William and Mary
- Humanities 201 - SEARCH:VALUES IN HIST & RELIG
- Political Science 151 - UNITED STATES POLITICS
- Political Science 245 - SOUTHERN POLITICS
- Political Science 340 - THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY
- Political Science 485 - SENIOR SEMINAR
How the South Joined the Gambling Nation: The Politics of State Policy Innovation (2008)
The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776-2007 (2008)
The Presidency and the Political System, 9th ed. (2009)
The Elections of 2008 (2009).