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Kevin Starr, California's Premier Historian, Dies At 76

Michael Macor / The Chronicle
 

Michael Macor / The Chronicle

(AP) - Former California State Librarian Kevin Starr, who is deemed the pre-eminent historian of the Golden State, has died. He was 76.

Starr's wife, Sheila Starr, said he died of a heart attack Saturday evening at a hospital in San Francisco.

Starr, a professor of history at the University of Southern California, researched and wrote "Americans and the California Dream," a series of books considered the definitive account of the California story.

He was appointed state librarian by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1994 and served until 2004 under governors Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who named him State Librarian Emeritus.

The 2006 recipient of the National Humanities Medal, Starr was a fourth-generation San Franciscan who graduated from the University of San Francisco and went on to earn his Ph.D. in American literature at Harvard University.

Longtime friend and fellow USC professor Dana Gioia called him "brilliant, kind and the greatest historian of California."