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Legendary Civil War historian dies

Photo courtesy Virginia Tech
Civil War historian James I. “Bud” Robertson Jr. inside his home library, with some of his published works.

“History is the greatest teacher you will ever have,” James I. “Bud” Robertson Jr. often told his students. If history is the greatest teacher, many of them might have argued, then he was the second greatest.

Robertson, alumni distinguished professor emeritus of history at Virginia Tech, died Saturday after a long illness. He was 89 years old.

Robertson used vivid stories to bring the American Civil War to life not just for generations of Virginia Tech students, but also for millions across the world through his award-winning books, frequent television appearances, popular radio essays and passionate advocacy of history.

Dr. Bud, as he liked to be called, grew up poor near the train tracks in Danville, with dreams of becoming a railroad engineer. Yet when he asked for a railroad job at the age of 17, the yardmaster, who knew him well, told him to go to college first. The rest is literally history.

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