Historian Stephen Ambrose died Oct. 13 at age 66.
Although Ambrose was best-known for his popular histories of World War II, he also wrote about the West. Undaunted Courage, the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and Nothing Like it in the World, about the building of the transcontinental railroad, were both national best-sellers.
Ambrose lived in Bay St. Louis, Miss., but he spent summers in Helena, Mont., and was active in efforts to restore the Missouri River. He sat on the board of directors of the nonprofit river-protection group American Rivers. Ambrose gave generously both to that group and to the Clark Fork Coalition's effort to clean up the Milltown Dam Superfund site at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers in Montana (HCN, 5/8/00: The Clark Fork unplugged).
Ambrose was researching a book about the Pacific theater of operations during World War II when he was diagnosed with lung cancer in April. To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian, which Ambrose wrote while battling the disease, is due out in November.
Earlier this year, Ambrose was dogged by accusations of plagiarism in several of his books. "He grew weary of it, (but) he was more concerned about turning on the average guy to history," says former research assistant Robert Lynn. "He liked to sit around the campfire and drink beer and b.s. and tell great stories."