As Jack E. Davis met with a graduate student in his Keene-Flint Hall office Monday afternoon, his phone began to ring. And ring. And ring.
When he finally checked it, he saw the message: “Congratulations you won the Pulitzer.” A stream of calls, texts and emails followed suit.
Davis, a UF professor and environmental historian, won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for history for his book “The Gulf,” about untold stories from America’s cultural and environmental relationship with the Gulf of Mexico. The award, considered one of the most prestigious in the literary world, was announced in New York at Columbia University.
“It feels pretty remarkable; I’m stunned,” Davis said. “I was literally speechless, and I had to push the phone across the desk to the student for him to read.”
Davis said the acclaim his book has received is a testament to how people around the country care about the Gulf of Mexico as something more than a source of oil.
He wrote the book to restore the identity of the Gulf of Mexico as an integral character in American culture after it was tarnished by the BP oil spill of 2010, he said
Other finalists for the award were “Fear City” by Kim Phillips-Fein and “Hitler in Los Angeles” by Steven J. Ross.
Steve Orlando, a UF spokesperson, said UF is lucky to have Davis.
“I grew up on the Gulf of Mexico, and I can tell you he got it exactly right,” Orlando said.
Marcela Mulholland, a UF sustainability studies and political science junior, was in Davis’ History of Sustainability class during Fall semester and said she hadn’t read his book.
“Now I really want to read the book because it’s obviously good,” the 20-year-old said. “And I can get him to sign a copy.”