Michael Nelson | Professor
Office: 304 Buckman Hall | | Email: mnelson@rhodes.edu


Michael Nelson is the Fulmer Professor of Political Science at Rhodes College, a Senior Fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, and a Fellow at Southern Methodist University’s Center for Presidential History. 

In 2015, the American Political Science Association gave Nelson the Richard E. Neustadt Award for the Outstanding book on the Presidency and Executive Politics published during the previous year for Resilient America: Electing Nixon in 1968, Channeling Dissent, and Dividing Government (University Press of Kansas). He and his former Rhodes student and colleague, John Lyman Mason, won the Southern Political Science Association’s 2009 V.O. Key Award for Outstanding Book on Southern Politics for How the South Joined the Gambling Nation: The Politics of State Policy Innovation (Louisiana State University Press.

            Nelson also has won other writing, teaching, and research awards.  He received the Jeffrey Nordhaus Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching at Vanderbilt University, where he taught as a tenured professor for twelve years and still teaches occasionally.  He also won Vanderbilt’s Ellen Gregg Ingalls Award for excellence in teaching.  His article on the Baltimore Orioles was included in the book Best Sports Stories 1979; another, on the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for music journalism.  In 2001 he received Rhodes College’s Clarence Day Dean’s Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity.  

Nelson has published more than twenty-five books on the presidency, elections, the bureaucracy, public policy, southern politics, and liberal education. More than fifty of his articles have been reprinted in books of political science, history, sociology, sports, music, and English composition.  His books have been published by Alfred A. Knopf, Johns Hopkins University Press, Cornell University Press, Duke University Press, the University Press of Kansas, Louisiana State University Press, Vanderbilt University Press, CQ Press, and other presses. 

Nelson’s books on the presidency include The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776-2015, with Sidney M. Milkis (2016); 41: Inside the George H.W. Bush Presidency, which he coedited with Barbara A. Perry (2014); The Presidency and the Political System, 10th ed. (2014); Governing at Home: The White House and Domestic Policymaking, with Russell L. Riley; The President’s Words: Speeches and Speechwriting in the Modern White House, with Russell L. Riley (2010); and Presidents, Politics and Policy, with Erwin C. Hargrove (1984).

The Elections of 2012 (2013) marked the eighth in a series of postelection books that began with The Elections of 1984.  

            Nelson has published articles in multiple scholarly journals such as the Journal of Politics, Political Science Quarterly, Journal of Policy History; The Public Interest, Media Studies Journal, Popular Music and Society, Congress and the Presidency, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Tennessee Historical Quarterly.

In addition to his articles on political topics, Nelson has written lengthy articles about Charles Dickens, Frank Sinatra, Garrison Keillor, C. S. Lewis, Jonathan Edwards, Stephen L. Carter, Ward Just, the military academies, the Iliad, the Odyssey and Aeneid, liberal education, baseball, football, and music.  A former writer-editor with the Washington Monthly and a frequent contributor to the Claremont Review of Books, he has published articles in a number of popular magazines, including the Weekly Standard, Newsweek, Saturday Review, Legal Affairs, and the American Prospect. He also has written articles for newspapers such as the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Washington Post, and Baltimore Sun, and websites such as prospect.org, insidehighered.com, and hnn.us (History News Network).  He wrote frequently for the Review section of the Chronicle of Higher Education, and was a blogger for its “Brainstorm” web site during the 2008 election. 

            Nelson created and served as editor of the Interpreting American Politics book series for Johns Hopkins University Press.  He also created and, with Sewanee president John L. McCardell, edits the American Presidential Elections book series for the University Press of Kansas.  He was the political analyst for WMC-TV in Memphis for fourteen years and was the host of “Informed Sources” on Memphis’s public television station, WKNO-TV.

            At Rhodes Nelson teaches course on the American presidency, southern politics, and great books of the western tradition.  He is currently writing a book on the 1992 election and editing and coauthoring a book on the Clinton presidency.


Prof. Nelson′s Vita (PDF)

Claremont Summer 2010 (PDF)

Claremont Summer 2011 (PDF)

Claremont Winter 2011-2012 (PDF)

Claremont Winter 2012-2013 (PDF)

Claremont Summer 2014 (PDF)


M.A. and Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University
B.A., College of William and Mary

  • Humanities 201 - SEARCH:VALUES IN HIST & RELIG
  • Political Science 151 - UNITED STATES POLITICS
  • Political Science 245 - SOUTHERN POLITICS
  • Political Science 340 - THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY
  • Political Science 485 - SENIOR SEMINAR

Selected Publications


How the South Joined the Gambling Nation: The Politics of State Policy Innovation (2008)

The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776-2007 (2008)

The Presidency and the Political System, 9th ed. (2009)

The Elections of 2008 (2009).

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