Timothy Holder: History educator quizzes readers’ presidential knowledge


History Buzz

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, 6-1-11

Timothy Holder, a history professor at Walters State Community College, teaches Sunday school at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church recently.

Timothy Holder, a history professor at Walters State Community College, teaches Sunday school at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church recently.

“Hey, It’s Presidential Trivia” by Timothy Holder, TDH Communications, 106 pages

Three presidents of the United States had the nickname Hickory.

It’s an odd nickname, but Andrew Jackson was called “Old Hickory” and his political protege James Polk was called “Young Hickory” and Franklin Pierce was “Young Hickory of Granite Hills.”

Timothy Holder isn’t sure that last one really constitutes a nickname because of its long-windedness, but he found it to be an interesting fact about the country’s 44 presidents.

“Three presidents with the nickname ‘Hickory,’ who would’ve thought that?” said Holder, a history professor at Walters State Community College.

In his new book, “Hey, It’s Presidential Trivia,” published in February, Holder provides readers with many facts about the presidents that they might never have thought true.

One president spoke English as his second language. Martin Van Buren, the eighth president, grew up speaking Danish.

“You’re not a better historian for reading, but it’s fun,” said Holder, who lives near Mascot.

Holder, 44, said he always liked history growing up, but he didn’t decide to become a history teacher until he was in his 20s. He had received his undergraduate degree in Bible, thinking he might want to be a preacher.

“I was always interested in how I could learn a story in history and there was always a story leading up to that and a one leading up to that,” Holder said. “There was always more to the mystery.”

Much of his writing combines these two passions for Christian faith and history, especially biographies. Over the past eight years, Holder has authored and coauthored nine books, including “Influential Christians,” published last year and “Ask the Professor: Advice for College Grads,” which came out in January.

“Influential Christians” is a book containing biographies of 16 influential writers, musicians and preachers.

His books have all been nonfiction so far, though he hopes to write fiction in the future.

“I think what I was drawn to was the communication of the truth,” said Holder, who also teaches Sunday school at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church. “To communicate the truth, that is why I am here.”

For him, writing books is another way to communicate the truth.

His presidential trivia book, which includes at least five quirky facts for each president, plus years of service and political party, is a bit different than his other books.

However, at the suggestion of his wife, Angela, he wanted to make a more affordable book for readers to purchase at book signings.

His publishers set the price for his book fairly high at $20 to $25. He self-published the trivia book so he could control the cost.

As a professor, Holder said it is easy to find time to write over breaks and the summer. Holder wrote most of his trivia book last summer.

He already knew a lot of presidential facts from the courses he teaches, but he also did some research and “pleasure reading” to find the quirkiest facts about the country’s commanders in chief.

Just like with his lectures, Holder said he tried to inject humor into the book because he finds people focus better with a little bit of laughter.

Each month, Holder said he sets small writing goals, such as finishing 30 pages so his larger goal of writing a 300-page book doesn’t seem as daunting.

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