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James McPherson
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Iowa City

James A. McPherson, 72, of Iowa City, died July 27, 2016, at Mercy Hospital, surrounded by family and friends. He was born Sept. 16, 1943, in Savannah, Ga., son of the late James Allen McPherson and Mable Small McPherson.
Mr. McPherson attended segregated schools in Savannah and graduated from Morris Brown College, a traditionally black college in Atlanta. He received his LL.B. degree from Harvard University in 1968 and his M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1969. While he was a student at Harvard, he received an award from the Atlantic Monthly that set him on a career in writing. He published two books of short stories, "Hue and Cry" in 1968, and "Elbow Room," which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1978. He published many essays and books in different genres, including "Railroad: Trains and Train People in American Culture," "Crabcakes," "Fathering Daughters" (with DeWitt Henry) and "A Region Not Home: Reflections from Exile."
Mr. McPherson was a beloved and inspirational teacher. Before joining the faculty at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1981, he taught at the University of California-Santa Cruz, Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md., and the University of Virginia. He was considered the heart and soul of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and many of his students have gone on to become highly regarded writers.
He also was a devoted and loving father and is survived by a daughter, Rachel Alice McPherson of Iowa City, and a son, Benjamin Miyamoto of Los Angeles; his sister, Mary; his brother, Richard (he was predeceased by a sister, Josephine McPherson); and several nieces and nephews. His beloved assistant Joanne Stutzman and many good neighbors have helped make Iowa City his home.
A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 320 E. College St., Iowa City. A reception in the parish hall will follow the service. At 7 p.m., a reading in remembrance of his life will take place at the Englert Theater. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the James Alan McPherson Scholarship Fund through the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop online at;jsessionid=E9A86CFBF7BC507710B7A74064ED74B8?area=ww or by sending a check to the University of Iowa Foundation. Online condolences may be left for the family at

Posted on Monday, 1 August 2016