Professor Maury Klein, a resident of Saunderstown, has published sixteen major books in a legendary forty-four year career at the University of Rhode Island. His works, almost all national in scope, examined the industrialization of America and the Captains of Industry who spearheaded that technological revolution. Among his output are several publications that dissect the growth and influence of the railroad, especially the iconic Union Pacific that connected the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific in 1869. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize three times and became a finalist in 1986 for his fascinating biographical effort entitled The Life and Legend of Jay Gould. Maury has also garnered many other prestigious awards and prizes.
In doing his research, Dr. Klein has examined innumerable sources scattered around the nation, making as many stops at major repositories as the trains he studied. There are also dozens of articles and presentations that fill his bibliography and illuminate the breathtaking mixture of topics he has explored. Writing both for scholarly and popular audiences, he has published many popular articles for American History Illustrated. Although Maury’s home base was always the University of Rhode Island’s History Department, the breadth of his interests is reflected in the fact that on several occasions he also ran the school’s Honors Program and its Theatre Department.
Maury Klein was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1939. His father’s job as a retail troubleshooter gave young Maury a broad geographical glimpse of the United States. He finally found some hometown stability when he attended high school in East Denver, Colorado. As an only child he turned to reading and writing for adventure and sustenance. He graduated from Knox College in 1960 and earned both his M. A. and Ph. D. at Emory University in 1961 and 1965 respectively. He taught at URI from 1964 until his retirement in 2008 gaining national stature for himself and recognition for the university.
In addition to his prolific scholarly achievements, Maury also served as a consultant for the Rhode Island Committee on the Humanities, the Trinity Repertory Theatre, and WGBH, Boston’s famed educational station. He was an expert advisor for several historical documentaries and for many more cultural endeavors. He likes to say that he was “a talking head” for many of these projects. Maury is currently writing about the American mobilization for World War II and keeps adding to his prolific output of major historical works.
Dr. Klein confesses that under different circumstances he might have become a musician. Later in life he actually became an amateur actor and a helpful friend to local dramatic and musical productions. Likewise, another hobby brought him further notoriety at URI where he was a stalwart in faculty basketball games, often earning praise from the school’s Division One players, who sometimes stopped to watch and comment.
He remains a top-flight basketball and softball player in Senior Olympic competition.
– Dr. D. Scott Molloy, Jr.