Students studying outside the library

Alumnus James Scott named Pulitzer finalist

Author of acclaimed ‘Target Tokyo’ surprised by honor

James Scott Pulitzer 382x255
Author and 1997 Wofford graduate James Scott spoke at the college's opening convocation in the fall of 2015.
2016-04-19

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – James Scott’s cellphone dinged numerous times Monday afternoon while he was helping his daughter with her homework. When he finally took notice, he was stunned to see 40 emails, many of them Twitter alerts, with some exciting news. Scott, author of the already highly acclaimed book “Target Tokyo,” had been named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, one of the country’s highest awards for achievement in journalism, literature and musical composition.

“I am honestly still stunned by it all,” Scott says. “It caught me totally off guard. More than anything, I am excited that this honors the 80 brave airmen who flew the Doolittle Raid (the subject of the book). They are the ones who deserve the recognition. For me, it was a privilege and an honor to have the opportunity to tell their story.”

Scott, a 1997 Wofford graduate who lives in Mount Pleasant, S.C., with his wife and two children, already had received national acclaim for “Target Tokyo.” It was named one the best books of 2015 by Kirkus, the Christian Science Monitor and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“The Doolittle Raid is an incredible story of American heroism,” Scott says. “It is the story, not just of a daring raid, but really of a nation in its darkest hour, desperately in need of heroes. These 80 young men, many of them barely out of their teens, stepped forward to volunteer for this mission form which few expected them to return. That’s why it is such an important story, one worth retelling as often as possible.”

Scott says he had even forgotten that his publisher had planned to enter the book for the Pulitzer. “I never seriously entertained the idea that my book had a shot at any recognition. The book business is a large one, and it is fiercely competitive and there are a lot of wonderful nonfiction authors out there who are deserving of such accolades.”

He never dreamed of the kind of attention his writing has gotten, much less a Pulitzer nomination. “I love history and I love writing, and I’m fortunate enough to pursue my passion. For me, that has always been the real reward. I wake up excited each day to go to work.”

Scott gives much of the credit for his success as a writer to his Wofford education and the professors who encouraged him. “I am where I am today because of Wofford,” he says. “I so benefitted from the incredible professors, like John Lane, who went above and beyond to encourage me, not only when I was a student at Wofford, but in the two decades since I graduated. The faculty at Wofford is a real treasure.”

He shared his story with the Wofford community as the opening convocation speaker in the fall of 2015.

Wofford President Nayef Samhat expressed pride that an alumnus had received such a high honor. “James Scott is a superb writer and historian with a talent that mesmerizes his readers,” he says. “He continues to receive well-deserved accolades – and now is a Pulitzer Prize finalist – making those of us at Wofford College supremely proud that he is one of us. Scott’s remarks to our incoming class last fall were inspired and moving. We look forward to reading and hearing more from this talented graduate.”

Scott is working on his fourth book, about the February 1945 Battle for Manila, “which was the bloodiest urban fight of the Pacific War,” he says, “similar in many ways to what we have seen more recently in places like Fallujah.” The book is due out later this year.

His other works include “The War Below” and “The Attack on the Liberty,” which won the Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison Award. He is the recipient of the McClatchy Company President’s Award and was named the 2003 Journalist of the Year by the South Carolina Press Association. In 2005, he was named the Young Alumnus of the Year at Wofford.

Read more about James Scott at jamesmscott.com.