Loyola University Chicago

New Student Convocation

Convocation Speaker

Wil Haygood

Wil Haygood is the author of the 2017 Loyola University Chicago First-Year Text, Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America. 

Best known as the author of the New York Times bestseller The Butler: A Witness to History, Wil Haygood is a distinguished writer whose career has spanned decades. He was an associate producer on the film adaptation of his book, The Butler, which was sparked from his Washington Post article. The movie attracted an impressive audience due to the creative writing by Haygood and performances by Academy Award winners Forest Whittaker, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Robin Williams, Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Fonda and Oprah Winfrey. He worked many years at two of the most premiere papers in America (The Boston Globe and The Washington Post); during that time, he witnessed Nelson Mandela’s release after 27 years of imprisonment, was taken hostage by Somalian rebels, covered New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina for 33 straight days without a break, traveled with Barack Obama, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Haygood’s newest book Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America, a sweeping epic about the real-life events surrounding the heated appointment of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice, remains just as impressive as his sixth book The Butler. The New York Times said, “Haygood is passionate and eloquent. [He] has done a great service by reminding us of an extraordinary man at an extraordinary moment.Since its publication in September 2015, the book has been flying off the shelves. Not only has he received praise from many news outlets such as The Boston Globe “A vivid portrait,” The LA Times “A richly textured account,” and the New York Times Editors’ Choice, but the book has won Ohioana Book Award, the Scribes Book Award and a BCALA Literary Award. On top of that, the book remains a finalist for an NAACP Image Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, an Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and the Benjamin Hooks National Book Award. It has been named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, NPR, The Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Booklist and Baltimore magazine. An even further showing of Showdown’s success, renowned historian Michael Beschloss applauded the book, saying “Wil Haygood has brought us an elegant, fascinating and important tale, rendered with relentless originality. Showdown is a must read.”

Translated into over a dozen languages, The Butler: A Witness to History, is the story of Eugene Allen, the White House butler who served U.S. presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan. From Allen’s time as a butler led him to become a “discreet stage hand who for three decades helped keep the show running in the most important political theatre of all.” The attention from the book led to a film, and the film garnered two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture (Forest Whitaker) and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (David Oyelowo). President Obama said: “I teared up thinking about not just the butlers who worked here in the White House, but an entire generation of people.” President Jimmy Carter described the film as: “...one of the best dramatizations of the Civil Rights Movement I have seen.” Additionally, Oyelowo credited The Butler (and 12 Years a Slave) as changing the narrative in Hollywood for African Americans.

Haygood speaks on a variety of topics in his presentations; his long career as a reporter covering both national and global affairs makes him an authority on addressing any complex issue. For instance, audiences attending Haygood’s programs will hear a first-hand account of surviving a hostage situation, as well as the life lessons learned from the butler that served eight presidents. Haygood also shares that he is the first of his family to attend college and escape poverty, showing his determination and passion as well as inspiring others. In the end, Haygood hopes that his talks help people feel more passionate about their ideas, and learn more about race, perseverance, adversity, and the government inner workings.