John Willingham received a B.A. in history, with honors, and an M.A. in American history from the University of Texas at Austin. His thesis in Texas history, “George Barnard, Trader and Merchant on the Texas Frontier,” was published by Texana Quarterly. By vote of his fellow students, he was named the outstanding graduate student in American social history. For many years he was an elections administrator in Texas and served on a national election reform task force following the disastrous 2000 presidential election. He was also an election observer in Bosnia in the aftermath of the long and brutal wars in the former Yugoslavia.
From 2010 to 2013, He was a regular contributor to the News and Historians pages of the History News Network (HNN.us) and has also written (online) for the Texas Observer and Religion Dispatches. In addition, his short fiction has appeared in The Southwest Review (SMU Press), and SWR published his essay on Texas writers John Graves and Larry McMurtry in the summer issue (vol. 100, no. 3) in 2o15. The essay is reproduced on this site. His op-ed “Alamo Remembered; Goliad Often Forgotten” appeared in the San Antonio Express-News. In March 2011, he was the guest author and speaker at the annual historical re-enactment and educational program at the Presidio La Bahia, Goliad.
In addition, John has written extensively about public university honors colleges and programs. He is the founder and editor of the website Publicuniversityhonors.com, which features hundreds of posts and articles about the role and value of public honors programs in higher education. The site features contributions by parents, deans, and insightful observers in the field of higher education, as well as hundreds of posts by the editor. His book A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs, the first and, to date, the only evaluative work published on public honors programs, is widely used by parents, college consultants, and honors deans and directors. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote that the Review “is linked to publicuniversityhonors.com, which began in 2011 and, like the [Review], provides thorough appraisals of individual honors colleges and programs and intelligent thoughts on how they fit into the higher-education landscape.” The book will also be published by Zhejiang University Press. Zhejiang University is a C-9 university in China; the C-9 designation is often viewed as the Chinese version of the Ivy League.
A native Texan, Willingham now divides his time between Portland, Oregon, and Austin, Texas. He is working on a new novel set in Texas during the presidency of George W. Bush.