Luke A. Nichter is a Professor of History and James H. Cavanaugh Endowed Chair in Presidential Studies at Chapman University. His area of specialty is the Cold War, the modern presidency, and U.S. political and diplomatic history, with a focus on the “long 1960s” from John F. Kennedy through Watergate. He has been a Visiting Fellow at the Norwegian Nobel Institute, an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Massachusetts Historical Society, a Visiting Scholar at the University of Michigan’s Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Rothermere American Institute, and a Hansard Research Scholar at the London School of Economics.
He is a New York Times bestselling author or editor of eight books, including, most recently, The Year That Broke Politics: Collusion and Chaos in the Presidential Election of 1968 (Yale University Press). It is the first rigorously researched historical account of the most controversial election in modern U.S. history to have cooperation from all four major sides – Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon, and George Wallace. Luke interviewed approximately 85 family members and former staffers, in addition to extensive archival research and access to new evidence that dramatically changes our understanding of the election. This work was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.
Luke’s last book was The Last Brahmin: Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. and the Making of the Cold War (Yale University Press). It was the first full biography of Lodge – whose public career spanned from the 1930s to the 1970s – based on extensive multilingual archival research. This work was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Grant. He is also the author of Richard Nixon and Europe: The Reshaping of the Postwar Atlantic World (Cambridge University Press), which was based on multilingual archival research in six countries, and is now at work on a book tentatively titled LBJ: The White House Years of Lyndon Johnson.
He is a noted expert on the secret White House recordings of Franklin D. Roosevelt through Richard Nixon, and wrote an authoritative history of their taping systems commissioned by the White House Historical Association. His website, nixontapes.org, featured by CBS Sunday Morning, was the basis for the New York Times bestselling The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Co-edited with Douglas Brinkley, along with a sequel volume, The Nixon Tapes: 1973 (Hougton Mifflin Harcourt), the volumes won the Arthur S. Link – Warren F. Kuehl Prize for Documentary Editing, awarded by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. Jane Kamensky, Professor of History at Harvard University and Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women, called the volumes among the five best books on the 1970s.
Luke is a former founding Executive Producer of C-SPAN’s American History TV, launched during January 2011 in 41 million homes. A feature of the series is “American Artifacts,” a weekly program that Luke conceptualized, which lets viewers experience a museum, an archive, or a historic site from behind the scenes – something different than what they would ordinarily see as a member of the visiting public. In August 2020, the White House announced his appointment to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which was created in 1966 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiative – transforming the role of the federal government from destroyer to protector of historic, cultural, and tribal sites. Luke’s appointment ended in April 2023 after serving in both Democratic and Republican administrations.
He has filed over 2,000 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the purpose of opening historically important records to public access — work that has been officially endorsed by the American Historical Association. His petition before Judge Royce Lamberth of the District Court for the District of Columbia unsealed thousands of pages of government records in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration. For 2022-2024, Luke was appointed by the Archivist of the United States to serve on the federal government’s FOIA Advisory Committee.
Luke earned his Ph.D. in History from Bowling Green State University, and lives in Orange, California and Bowling Green, Ohio.