Review of “Thomas Jefferson: A Life” by Willard Sterne Randall

My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies

Willard Sterne Randall’s “Thomas Jefferson: A Life” was published in 1993.  Randall spent the first seventeen years of his professional career as a journalist for a variety of Philadelphia-area publications. He later earned a Masters degree from Princeton and began a career as a historian and author. Among his nine books are biographies of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen.  He is Professor Emeritus at Champlain College in Vermont.

When first published, this 595-page biography promised new insights into Jefferson’s legal career, his philosophy regarding slavery and his relationship with Sally Hemings. But while Randall’s background as an investigative journalist clearly aided in his research and analysis, his most notable assertion – that Jefferson never had a romantic relationship with Hemings – has not survived the test of time.

Randall’s biography of Jefferson is lengthy, chronologically organized, and often interesting…but frustratingly…

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