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Eugene Aloysius (Gene) Lyons (1943–)

Eugene Aloysius (Gene) Lyons is an award-winning author, columnist, and political commentator who lives in Arkansas and wrote a nationally syndicated column for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, among other publications. He is author of several books and co-author of The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton (2000), which was made into a documentary film in 2004.

Gene Lyons was born on September 20, 1943, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to Eugene Aloysius Lyons Jr., an insurance clerk, and Helen Sheedy Lyons, a typist. For a time, Lyons’s father also ran a Dairy Queen. Lyons attended Chatham High School in New Jersey and graduated from Rutgers University, also in New Jersey, in 1965 with a degree in English. He went on to earn a PhD in English from the University of Virginia in 1969. He taught literature and writing classes at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst (1969–1972), the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (1972–1975), and the University of Texas at Austin (1975–1976) before returning to Arkansas in 1976. He taught at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1980 before settling in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to become a full-time writer, though he taught part-time at Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County) from 1998 through 2003.

Lyons has written hundreds of articles and reviews for magazines such as Esquire, Harper’s, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, Salon, Slate, and Washington Monthly. In 1980, Lyons won the National Magazine Award for Public Service for an article he wrote in Texas Monthly titled, “Why Teachers Can’t Teach.” He was named an associate editor at Texas Monthly in 1981 and, from 1982 to 1986, served as general editor at Newsweek.

In 1988, the University of Arkansas Press released his book The Higher Illiteracy: Essays on Bureaucracy, Propaganda, and Self-Delusion, based upon sixteen of his articles that were published in various magazines between 1975 and 1983. In 1993, Simon & Schuster published Lyons’s Widow’s Web, the true crime account of Mary Lee Orsini and the turmoil surrounding several infamous murders in Little Rock during the 1980s. His next book, Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater, was published by Franklin Square Press in 1996.

In 2000, St. Martin’s Press published The Hunting of the President by Lyons and co-author Joe Conason. In 2004, Mozark Productions released a documentary film, The Hunting of the President, based upon the book. It was directed by Nikolas Perry and Harry Thomason, narrated by Morgan Freeman, and featured cameo appearances by Lyons, Susan McDougal, James Carville, and Betsey Wright. It was chosen as an official selection at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.

For approximately eighteen years, until October 2011, Lyons wrote a column for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; his column continues to be syndicated nationally by United Media. One of his more noteworthy quotations is: “Sometimes it feels as if the country’s being run by the same bunch that ran your junior high school.”

Lyons and his wife, Diane, reside on a cattle ranch near Houston (Perry County). They have two sons.

For additional information:
Lyons, Gene. The Higher Illiteracy: Essays on Bureaucracy, Propaganda, and Self-Delusion. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1988.

Lyons, Gene, and Joe Conason. The Hunting of the President. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.

Gene Lyons. United Feature Syndicate Newspaper Enterprise Association. http://www.unitedfeatures.com/?title=Bio:Gene%20Lyons (accessed June 5, 2009).

Nancy Hendricks
Arkansas State University

Last Updated 5/2/2016

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