JAMES H. BILLINGTON
James Hadley Billington was sworn in as The Librarian of Congress on September 14, 1987. He is the 13th incumbent of that position since the Library was established in 1800. Under his leadership, the Library has expanded its public outreach, most notably in major international exhibits and through the establishment of a new National Digital Library and other electronic services for users in remote locations.
Born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, on June 1, 1929, Dr. Billington was educated in the public schools of the Philadelphia area. He was class valedictorian at both Lower Merion High School and Princeton University, where he graduated with highest honors in 1950. Three years later, he earned his doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College. Following service with the U. S. Army, he taught history at Harvard University from 1957 to 1962, then moved to the faculty of Princeton University, where he was professor of history from 1964 to 1974.
From 1973 to 1987, Dr. Billington was director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the official national memorial in Washington, D.C., to America's 28th President. Under his directorship, eight new programs were established at the Center, beginning with the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian studies in 1974. Dr. Billington founded the Wilson Quarterly in 1976 and initiated a series of scholars' guides to educational resources in Washington.
An author and historian, Dr. Billington is the author of Mikhailovsky and Russian Populism (1956), The Icon and the Axe (1966), Fire in the Minds of Men (1980), Russia Transformed: Breakthrough to Hope, August 1991 (1992), and The Face of Russia (1998), the companion book to the three-part television series, The Face of Russia, that he wrote and narrated for airing on Public Broadcasting Stations in June 1998 exploring the history and promise of the Russian people through their art and culture. Dr. Billington has been host, commentator, or consultant on numerous other educational and network television programs, and he has accompanied a number of congressional delegations as well as a library and a church delegation to the USSR and the Russian Federation. In June 1989, he accompanied President and Mrs. Reagan to the Soviet Summit in Moscow.
Dr. Billington has received 22 honorary degrees and, in 1992, the Woodrow Wilson Award from Princeton University. He has been decorated as Chevalier and then again as a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters of France, as a Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit by the Federal Republic of Germany, and has received the Gwanghwa Medal from the Republic of Korea.
Dr. Billington was a longtime member of the editorial advisory boards of Foreign Affairs and of Theology Today, and a member of the Board of Foreign Scholarships in 1971-76 (chairman, 1971-73), which has executive responsibility for academic exchanges worldwide under the Fulbright-Hays Act. He is on the Board of the Center for Theological Inquiry and a member of the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.