NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman's Statement on the Death of National Medal of Arts Recipient Ray Bradbury
“On behalf of the National Endowment for the Arts, it is with great sadness that I acknowledge the passing of Ray Bradbury, recipient of the National Medal of Arts and one of the inaugural authors featured in our Big Read program. With his boundless imagination and creativity, Bradbury inspired not just generations of readers but generations of writers. His infectious sense of humor, boundless enthusiasm for both scientific and literary exploration, and unmatched inventiveness will be sorely missed.”
Ray Bradbury was one of the greatest American writers of the 20th and 21st centuries. His singular achievement is rooted in the imaginative originality of his works, his gift for language, his insights into the human condition, and his commitment to the freedom of the individual. A passionate advocate for libraries, Bradbury never tired of telling how he wrote Fahrenheit 451 on the typewriters at the UCLA’s Lawrence Clark Powell Library “with a bagful of dimes.” Speaking of the novel in an interview several years ago, Bradbury said: “I’ve said it often: I’ve tried not to predict, but to protect and to prevent…. I can teach people to really know they’re alive.”
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Born in 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois, Bradbury moved with his family to Los Angeles at the age of 14. After graduating high school, he ended his formal education and found work selling newspapers. In 1943 he began his career as a writer — Truman Capote rescued his O. Henry Prize-winning story “Homecoming” from the slush pile — and in 1947 he published his first collection of short stories, Dark Carnival. His ascent toward becoming one of the preeminent science fiction writers began in 1950 with the publication of his story cycle, The Martian Chronicles, followed in 1951 by The Illustrated Man, a story inspired by a childhood visit to a carnival. In 1953, Bradbury published his literary masterpiece Fahrenheit 451; the following year, the 34-year-old author received the National Institute of Arts and Letters Award for contributions to American literature.
Bradbury has published more than 30 books and has written nearly 600 short stories. His literary awards include the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (2000), the O. Henry Prize (1947 and 1948), the Benjamin Franklin Award (1953-54), the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement (1977), the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America, and the PEN Center USA West Lifetime Achievement Award (1985). In 2007 he received a special citation from the Pulitzer Board “for his distinguished, prolific, and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy,” as well as the French Commandeur Ordre des Arts et des Lettres medal.
Bradbury has also authored numerous screenplays and television scripts. In 1963, his animated film, Icarus Montgolfier Wright, garnered an Academy Award nomination. His additional screenplays include Moby Dick (1956), It Came from Outer Space (1953), and a 1983 adaptation of his novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Bradbury, who has written television scripts for such series as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone, is the recipient of an Emmy Award for his teleplay of The Halloween Tree. From 1985 to 1990, he adapted many of his stories for his television show Ray Bradbury Theater. In 2002, he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to literature, the sci-fi film genre, and television.
He received the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush in 2004.