A retired director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies — part of Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences — was recently presented the John Y. Simon Award by the Ulysses S. Grant Association.

William C. “Jack” Davis was honored for his years of scholarship and writing on the Civil War, which includes the 2015 book Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee – the War they Fought, the Peace they Forged.

“He’s a great scholar of the Civil War, but what really tipped the scale for him winning the award this year was the comparison book between Lee and Grant that he wrote,” Ulysses S. Grant Association President Frank Williams said.

The award was created in 2009 and is named for a documentary editor who also headed the association from 1962-2008. It is presented each year to a person the association deems to have advanced the body of knowledge about Grant, who commanded the U.S. Army in the Civil War and later served as the nation’s 18th president.

“I am thrilled at this recognition, both because of its prestige in the historical community, as well as its being named in honor of my dear friend the late John Y. Simon,” Davis said. “John maintained the highest standards of scholarship and was truly an ornament to the profession.”

Grant has a strong reputation as a general, but a poor reputation as a president. Williams said he believes that poor reputation will improve as people “begin to understand (Grant) more in the context of his times.”

John Marszalek, the Giles Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at Mississippi State University, who serves as executive director and managing editor for the Ulysses S. Grant Association, said the organization hopes “to change incorrect perceptions of Grant, and Jack’s book does a marvelous, objective job of giving people insight into what Grant was like.”

The John Y. Simon Award is one of several recently awarded to Davis for his historical work.

“Crucible of Command” was honored in April 2015 with a Jefferson Davis Award from the American Civil War Museum – the fourth time Davis has received that particular honor. In November 2015, Davis received the Richard Nelson Current Award of Achievement from the Lincoln Forum.

Written by Albert Raboteau