James Alan McPherson, professor emeritus at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, died late last month at a hospice facility in Iowa City, after suffering from pneumonia. He was 72 years old.
Professor McPherson was the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction with his short story collection Elbow Room (Little, Brown, 1977). In 1981, he was among the first cohort of MacArthur Scholars.
A native of Savannah, Georgia, McPherson attended Morgan State University in Baltimore but transferred and earned a bachelor’s degree at Morris Brown College in Atlanta. He earned a law degree at Harvard and a master of fine arts degree in creative writing at the University of Iowa.
During a long academic career, Professor McPherson taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Morgan State University, and the University of Virginia. He joined the faculty at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1981.