Professor Chuck Holden lives history, teaches it, too

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Greene County native and history professor Chuck Holden will give a talk Sunday at the Greene County Historical Museum.


Professor Chuck Holden’s most recent book is “Republican Populist: Spiro Agnew and the Origins of Donald Trump’s America” (UVA Press, 2019).

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.

Holden’s talk happens this Sunday, July 25, at 2 p.m. at the Greene County Historical Museum at 219 E. Lincoln Way 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.

Holden’s teaching specialization includes 19th and 20th U.S. history, from the Civil War era to the Great Depression and New Deal 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,” from 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 crimes 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.

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