Craig Shirley (born September 24, 1956) is an American author, lecturer, historian and public affairs consultant. He has written three bestsellers on Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign that Changed America (2014), Reagan's Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All (2005), and Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan (2015).
Shirley also wrote December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World, a New York Times bestseller published in December 2011 about the attack on Pearl Harbor and its effects on the American people and culture. All four books have gone to paperback. Documentaries are now being produced based in part on the 1976 Reagan campaign and December 1941, for the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Shirley earned a degree in History and Political Science from Springfield College. Shirley was named by the London Telegraph, "the best of the Reagan biographers" and writer Tony Lee of Breitbart said he was “one of the most esteemed Ronald Reagan biographers." Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard called him "a prominent biographer of Ronald Reagan," Mark Levin called him "one of the best of the Reagan biographers," and the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard, a "noted Ronald Reagan biographer.” His book on Reagan’s final years Last Act, the topic which had never been covered before, was also highly praised for its rich writing and intricate detail and research.
Shirley has also written dozens of articles and given dozens of lectures about the life and times and lessons of Ronald Reagan.
Life and career
Youth and education
Shirley is the second son of Edward Shirley and Barbara Cone Shirley. He is of English and Scottish descent. His parents were charter members of the New York State Conservative Party and his father was the first registered conservative voter in the Empire State. In 1964 he went door to door for presidential candidate Barry Goldwater at age 8. In high school, Shirley was a standout athlete, winning six varsity letters, winning the league pole vaulting championship and was named “Most Improved Athlete” his senior year. He was also the editor of his high school newspaper.
In 1978 Shirley graduated from Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he majored history and political science. He was also a member of the school’s lacrosse team and track team.
Craig Shirley was professionally involved in American politics and government for over three decades. He worked in government and on campaigns at the congressional, gubernatorial, and presidential levels but now spend his time writing and lecturing on presidential politics and American history.
In 1977, he interned in the Capitol Hill office of Senator Jacob Javits of New York. That fall, he worked on the successful election campaign of John N. Dalton for governor of Virginia.
In the fall of 1978, Shirley was press secretary for Gordon Humphrey, who scored a huge upset win in the U.S. Senate election in New Hampshire. Shirley then served on Humphrey's Washington D.C. staff. Ronald Reagan came into New Hampshire to campaign for Humphrey, where Shirley first met Governor Reagan.
In 1980, he ran an important independent expenditure campaign is support of former California governor Ronald Reagan’s presidential bid in the first six primary states on behalf of the Fund for a Conservative Majority. Shirley produced and placed radio and newspaper ads in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and three other states maximizing the three quarters of a million dollars FCM budgeted for the campaign to help Reagan at a time when his own campaign was broke.
He joined the staff of the Republican National Committee. As a Communications Advisor, Shirley traveled across the country advising dozens of campaigns and state committees on public relations, political advertising, and campaign strategy to co-ordinate with the message of the Reagan White House.
In 1984, during the U.S. presidential campaign, Shirley was the Director of Communications for the National Conservative Political Action Committee, America’s largest independent political committee, which spent over $14 million on behalf of President Ronald Reagan’s re-election on another independent expenditure campaign. In 1986, he became a consultant to the Fund for America’s Future, the political action committee of Vice President George H. W. Bush, working closely with the future President George W. Bush. Shirley was retained and tasked with the goal of organizing conservative support for George H. W. Bush’s 1988 presidential bid.
After Reagan’s reelection and in the late fall of 1984, Shirley opened his own firm and worked on numerous matters in co-ordination with the Reagan White House including aid to the Nicaraguan Contras, support for the Strategic Defensive Initiative, support for the Afghanistan Mujahideen, support for Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA, and support for the Tax Reform Act of 1986. He also worked on the White House Conference on Small Business in 1985.
In 1991, Shirley ran a major advertising and public affairs campaign supporting President Bush and Operation Desert Storm, later represented the Embassy of the State of Kuwait, and was placed in charge of public relations for an international conference on democracy hosted in Prague by President Václav Havel of then Czechoslovakia. For a short time, Shirley and David Keene partnered in a firm, but that association ended amicably in 1992.
During the 1990’s, Shirley conceived and created Citizens for State Power, which represented small investor owned utilities and they successfully stopped the attempts by Enron to nationalize the electricity grid. Shirley also advised the Southeastern Legal Foundation to file suit against the Clinton Administration’s attempt to politicize the census. The case went to the Supreme Court and there the SLF prevailed, defeating Clinton in an historic 5–4 vote. Shirley pioneered the "New Media"—and indeed coined the very phrase—of talk radio, faxes, e-mail and later the internet to mobilize for politics and policy. He has also coined the term "Vichy Republicans" and "Police State Republicans."
In addition to working with a host of political, corporate, and trade concerns, he also served as an informal advisor to the 1996 campaign of Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole. In 2000, his firm provided in-kind support to the presidential campaign of then Governor George W. Bush as well as the Florida recount. In that same year, Craig Shirley & Associates became Shirley & Banister Public Affairs with the promotion of Diana Banister from vice president to partner and finally, president of the firm in 2015. He is also a decorated contract agent for the CIA.
Craig Shirley has completed two new books, Citizen Newt and Reagan Rising about, respectively, the revolutionary life and times of Newt Gingrich and the period between 1976 and 1980 when Reagan’s political outlook and philosophy underwent an enormous and significant change.
Shirley is now working on three more books on Reagan including a detailed look at his 1968 run for the presidency. He is also writing a book about Dr. Howard Snyder, personal physician to President Dwight Eisenhower, as well as a book about George Washington’s family.
Achievements and awards
Shirley is a member of the Board of Governors of the Reagan Ranch and has often lectured at the Reagan Library.
He is also a member of the Reagan Alumni Association. He has addressed the Friends of Ronald Reagan association in Los Angeles and occasionally consults for the Reagan Library, especially on campaign displays and political history.
He was chosen in 2005 by Springfield College as their Outstanding Alumnus and has been named the Visiting Reagan Scholar at Eureka College, Ronald Reagan's alma mater. He taught a week long class, "Reagan 101" at Eureka College in 2012.
He was also appointed as a Trustee of Eureka.
His writings have solved some of the mysteries of Washington and politics including the stolen Carter Briefing Books in 1980, the missing cornerstone to the U.S. Capitol and the real story about the night of the Watergate breakin, to name just a few. He also uncovered a Top Secret memo written by the Office of Naval Intelligence on December 4, 1941, putting information on the possible attack at Pearl Harbor inside the Roosevelt White House, three days before the attack.
His book December 1941: 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World (2011), was nominated for 2011 Book of the Year Award by Foreword Reviews magazine. His book, Last Act, was named best narrative in the non-fiction category by USA Book News for 2015.
He is a member of various author’s guilds, Philadelphia Society, the Fusionist Society and the Lyn Nofziger Society. He is a former board member of the American Conservative Union. He has also lectured at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, Friends of Ronald Reagan (FORR) and Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics.
He has also lectured at the Buckley Center at Yale, at Larry Sabato’s Center for Politics at UVA, at Georgetown University, at Hillsdale College, at Regent University, and other colleges and universities.
Op-eds and media appearances
Shirley is a frequent commentator on politics. He has written for publications including the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the Los Angeles Times, Townhall, the Weekly Standard, the Washington Examiner, Newsmax, National Review, Reuters, Investors Business Daily, Politico, Breitbart, Lifezette and many other publications. He is also frequently sought after for televised interviews on all major networks, including CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX News, MSNBC, C-SPAN, FOX Business and CNN.
Craig Shirley and his wife, Zorine, are the parents of four children, Matthew, Andrew, Taylor and Mitchell. They split their time between "Trickle Down Point" on the Rappahannock River in Lancaster, Virginia and "Ben Lomond," a 300-year-old Georgian manor house in Tappahannock, VA. His hobbies include sailing, writing, scuba diving, water skiing, sport shooting, and renovating old buildings.
Shirley is the acting chairman of the revived political action committee, Citizens for the Republic, originally established in January 1977 by Ronald Reagan after his defeat for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination the preceding summer. On its website, Citizens for the Republic describes itself as a "national organization dedicated to revitalizing the conservative movement. Through education, grassroots organization, advocacy, and political activism...promoting the principles of limited government, maximum freedom, personal responsibility, peace through strength, and defense of the dignity of every individual". The CFTR directors include former Reagan advisors and consultants, such as the honorable Ed Meese and Reagan speechwriter Mari Maseng Will.
Shirley is the founder of the Ft. Hunt Youth Lacrosse Program, and was a coach there for 14 years. In the 20 plus years since Shirley founded the program, thousands of boys and girls have enjoyed learning and playing for Ft. Hunt. Shirley was instrumental in getting the Maryland legislature to make lacrosse the state’s sport. He was also an editor of Coaching Youth Lacrosse, published by the Lacrosse Foundation.
- Reagan's Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All (Thomas Nelson, 2005)
- Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2009)
- December 1941: 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World (Thomas Nelson, 2011)
- Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan (Thomas Nelson, 2015)
- Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980 (HarperCollins, 2017)
- Citizen Newt: The Making of a Reagan Conservative (Thomas Nelson, 2017)
- "Reagan Ranch Board of Governors". Retrieved 2012-08-08.
- "Lecture with author Craig SHirley" (web). craigshirley.com. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
- "Lecture and Book Signing with Craig Shirley". Retrieved 2015-04-26.
- "Ronald Reagan". Retrieved 2015-04-23.
- "EC elects trustees, officers". Retrieved 2015-04-22.
- Shirley, Craig. "New book pins 'debategate' on Democrat". Politico.
- Shirley, Craig. "Romancing the Cornerstone". Townhall.
- Shirley, Craig. "The Bartender's Tale: How the Watergate Burglars Got Caught". The Washington Magazine.
- Goddard, Jacqui. "Pearl Harbour memo shows US warned of Japanese attack". The Telegraph.
- "BOTYA 2011 Finalists In History (Adult Nonfiction)" (web). forewordreviews.com. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
- "USA Book News Announces Winners And Finalists Of The 2015 USA Best Book Awards" (web). USABookNews.com. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
- "Craig Shirley; Author, Historian, Lecturer". Retrieved 2015-04-24.
- "Ninth Annual Roosevelt Reading Festival" (web). fdrlibrary.marist.edu. Retrieved July 2, 2012.
- "Friends of the Dole Institute Private Annual Dinner With Craig Shirley, author of Rendezvous with Destiny" (web). doleinstitute.org. Retrieved July 2, 2012.
- "William F. Buckley, Jr. Program: "Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Election, and A Time for Choosing: 50 Years Later"". Retrieved 2015-04-21.
- "8th Annual American Democracy Conference Opens Thursday". Retrieved 2015-04-27.
- "Freedom Library Catalog" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-04-20.
- "The Ronald Reagan Symposium 2015". Retrieved 2015-08-06.
- "Craig Shirley; Author, Historian, Lecturer". Retrieved 2015-04-24.
- "Officers". Retrieved 2015-04-27.
- "Mission". Retrieved 2015-04-27.
- Hosticka, Alexis. "Fort Hunt Youth Lacrosse Celebrates 25th Year". Alexandria Gazette Packet.
- Reagan's Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign that Started it All. Thomas Nelson. 2010. ISBN 978-1-59555-342-3.
- Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign that Changed America. 2011. ISBN 978-1-935191-93-3.
- December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World. Thomas Nelson. 2011. ISBN 978-1-59555-457-4.
- Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan. Thomas Nelson. 2015. ISBN 978-1-59555-534-2.
- Citizen Newt: The Making of a Reagan Conservative. Thomas Nelson. 2017. ISBN 978-1-59555-448-2.