Randall, James G. (1881-1953) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Randall, James G. (1881-1953)

Historical Note:

James Garfield Randall (1881-1953) was assistant professor (1920-24), associate professor (1924-30), and professor (1930-49) of history at the University of Illinois (UI). He was a renowned historian of the American Civil War and was recognized as a leading scholar on the life of Abraham Lincoln.

Randall was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on June 24, 1881. He earned a bachelor's degree from Butler University (1903) as well as a master's degree (1904) and a PhD (1911) from the University of Chicago. His doctoral dissertation was titled "The Confiscation of Property During the Civil War," and, over the course of his career, he continued to explore Civil War history as well as the life of President Abraham Lincoln, often through a political and constitutional lens. Examples of his many publications include, "The Genius Student" (1914), Constitutional Problems under Lincoln (1926), "Has the Lincoln Theme Been Exhausted?" (1936), The Civil War and Reconstruction (1937), Lincoln and the South (1946), Lincoln the Liberal Statesman (1947), and "Historianship" (1953). His widely acclaimed biography, Lincoln the President was published in four volumes: Springfield to Gettysburg (2 vols., 1945), Midstream (vol. 3, 1952; 1953 Loubat Prize), and Last Full Measure (vol. 4, 1955; 1956 Bancroft Prize). Randal was a dedicated educator and was active in his field, serving on the Federal Public Archives Commission (1926-31) and as Director of the Illinois State Historical Society (1937-51). He also held the presidencies of the Illinois State Historical Society (1945-46), the Mississippi Valley Historical Association (1940-41), and the American Historical Association (1952). He was granted honorary doctorates from Butler University and Washington and Lee University.

Randall was married to Edith L. Abbott (d. 1913) until her death, and he married biographer and collaborator Ruth Painter Randall (1892-1971) on August 21, 1917. He retired from teaching in 1949 and died in Urbana, Illinois, on February 20, 1953.


Harry E. Pratt, "James Garfield Randall, 1881-1953," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984) 46, no. 2 (Summer 1953), pp. 119-131. Accessed June 4, 2020, www.jstor.org/stable/40189285.

"James G. Randall," Illinois Distributed Museum, accessed June 4, 2020, https://distributedmuseum.illinois.edu/exhibit/james-g-randall/.

"Randall To Retire in September," Daily Illini, 3 May 1949, accessed June 4, 2020, https://idnc.library.illinois.edu/?a=d&d=DIL19490503.2.57&srpos=1&e=-------en-20--1--img-txIN-James+G.+Randall+--------.

Wikipedia, s.v. "James G. Randall," accessed June 4, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_G._Randall.

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