THOMAS J. FLEMING (1927-2017)
This issue of the Broadside is dedicated solely to Tom and otherwise contains only necessary notices about our October 3rd meeting
The death of Tom Fleming, friend and fellow Roundtabler, came as a shock to all. Tom was a prolific author, publishing nearly 50 books: histories and historical novels, contributing as both scholar and artist of the first rank. His friend David McCullough told the New York Times obituary writer, “He worked all the time, and he wasn’t just knocking the books out. He was writing quality books.” The quality of his work was stressed by Katherine Whittemore in a review in Salon of one of Tom’s finest books, Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Future of America: a “stunning panorama of the fledgling nation” and “a parable of titanic intellect and potential subverted by ambition; of vindictiveness, venality, lust, chimerical visions of empire and, finally, of murder.”
The breadth of Tom’s knowledge was also “stunning.” The Revolution, of course, which fascinated him, but also the Civil War, histories of West Point and New Jersey, Irish-American politics. Tom was ahead of his time in taking on a subject that daunt many male writers: novels written from the point of view of women, perhaps the best known being The Officers’ Wives; and a superb history chronicling women’s stories in The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers, described by the Washington Post as a “well researched peek into the boudoirs of America’s political architects.”
Tom’s admirers and readers at large have another treat in store. In March, Tom finished his last book: The Strategy of Victory: How General George Washington Won the American Revolution. It will be published in October.
And, of course, there is our Round Table. Tom was there at the beginning, one of the founders of the New York Roundtable, a past chairman, editor of the Broadside, and for several years our speakers’ chair. In the words of our Chairman Dave Jacobs, in his notice of Tom’s death to the Board, “His energy and dedication to the Round Table are surely what has made this organization the success it has been for well over 50 years, as well as a model for other round tables to emulate over the years. He was truly the soul of the Round Table.”
To our Secretary-Treasurer, Jon Carriel, Tom “was our friend, our colleague in the study of the Revolution, and a guy we turned to for information when all other sources failed . . . scholar, author, speaker par excellence, his gregariousness and self-deprecating humor made him a pleasure to be around in either a social setting or a serious discussion of any aspect of American history . . . He will be terribly missed by all of us."
Tom was a mentor and inspiration to many, unsparing with guidance and advice, and it is fitting to quote some of the tributes that have come in from members of the Round Table and colleagues in other organizations.
Armen Boyajian: “Truly sad news. Thomas Fleming has left a mark on American History.”
Pat Ciccarone: “Sad, sad news.”
Joanne Grasso: “I am grieved over Tom’s passing. He was a mentor to me even when he didn’t know it . . . The history and literary worlds have lost a great friend.”
Daniel Jacobs: “I feel so terribly saddened . . .Words can’t express my sorrow. Like Dave, I’ve known Tom for many years and have so respected his knowledge and scholarship. He will be sorely missed by everybody at ARRT.”
Arthur Lefkowitz: “deeply saddened by the death of Tom Fleming . . . Tom had been very generous with his time and advice over the years. He read and made valuable suggestions for several chapters in Eyewitness Images from the American Revolution . . . Tom Fleming was mentor and friend. His good advice will be fondly remembered . . . .”
David Malinsky: “It saddens me greatly to hear the news. Tom was an inspiring figure. He will be deeply missed.”
Bert Dunkerly, National Park Service Ranger and author of books on the Revolutionary War: “Oh, no, what a loss. I never met him but always wanted to.”
Jeanne Floersheimer, President, North Jersey American Revolution Round Table, on behalf of the NJARRT: “It was always a pleasure having Mr. Fleming as a speaker before our group. He gave so much of his time and talent re the American Revolution to us all. Our sincere condolences to the Round Table of New York and to Mr. Fleming’s family.”
Brian Mack, Fort Plain Museum Board of Trustees, and a founding member of the Mohawk and Hudson Valley American Revolution Round Table: “I’m very sorry to hear of Tom’s passing . . . I will always cherish the phone conversations that I had with him last summer when we discussed the details of his new book.”
Rich Rosenthal, President, North Jersey Civil War Round Table; Secretary, North Jersey American Revolution Round Table: After describing Tom’s several speaking engagements at both organizations, and the presentation to Tom in 2011 of their Lifetime Achievement Award, Rich added, “On a personal note, Thomas Fleming was a class individual and probably the greatest conversationalist I have ever had the privilege to share time with.”
Bill Welsch, Richmond American Revolution Round Table: “This is certainly a big loss to the Revolutionary War community. Not only was Mr. Fleming a wonderful historian, he was also a real gentleman. I had the privilege and pleasure of spending time with him on three occasions and can attest both to be true . . . his books were always accurate and informative . . . He was a great story teller and a prolific author . . . .”
Yes, Tom will truly be missed. I look forward to seeing all of you at our October meeting and raising our glasses high for our friend, our colleague, our mentor.
THE SPEAKER FOR OCTOBER
Our speaker will be Tom Shachtman, a former member of our Roundtable. He will talk about his new book, How the French Saved America: Soldiers, Sailor, Diplomats, Louis XVI and the Success of a Revolution. His talk will highlight what too many Americans are unaware of: France was as important to America in the 18th Century as America was to France in the 20th Century. Mr. Shachtman is the author of two dozen non-fiction books as well as novels and books for children, and documentaries for ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, BBC, and other outlets. He has lectured at Harvard, NYU, Stanford, CCNY, Georgia Tech, the New York Public Library, and the Huntington Library.
A DIGITAL MESSAGE FROM OUR CHAIRMAN
Please note that our annual dues form is attached to this issue of the newsletter. The form should easily print out as a single page on any laser printer. Dues are payable as of the October meeting.
We hope you will make your reservation for our October 3rd meeting by e-mailing our Secretary-Treasurerr at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will gather at our usual home away from home, the Coffee House Club at 20 West 44th St., 6th floor, at 6:00 p.m. If you are bringing a guest(s), please give their names to Jon as well. Advance payments by check of both dues and dinner costs are very welcome, and may be mailed to Jon at 57 West 70th St., Apt. 3A, NYC 10023. Dinner costs are unchanged (Members $45, Guests $55). You can also telephone Jon with any concerns at (212) 874-5121. We look forward to seeing you.
Your most obdt svt,
David W. Jacobs