Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities: Who Is Jon Parrish Peede?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Jon Parrish Peede

Despite proposing last year to abolish the agency altogether, President Donald Trump recently named a new chair for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). An independent agency that supports education, preservation, public programs, and research that contributes to the humanities as a life-enriching element of the American experience, NEH is the largest funder of humanities-related activities in the U.S. and gives out about 800 grants a year.


If confirmed by the Senate, Jon Parrish Peede would succeed William D. Adams, who resigned in May 2017, shortly after Peede was named senior deputy chair. As acting chair, Peede warned in October 2017 that Trump still wanted big cuts at NEH. Peede’s brother, Robert L. Peede, Jr., was a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence and now works in the White House. 


Born March 30, 1969, to Dr. Robert Louis Peede Sr. and Mary Ann Parrish in Brandon, Mississippi. He earned a B.S. in English at Vanderbilt University in 1991 and an M.A. in Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi in 1994. During graduate school, he worked part-time as head writer of the SouthVine newspaper, senior editor of CrossRoads: A Journal of Southern Culture, and editorial assistant of the Mississippi Folklore Register.


After receiving his M.A., Peede from 1994 to 1996 worked as an editor at Mercer University Press in Macon, Georgia. He focused on the humanities, literature, and Southern culture, acquiring and editing more than 25 books, including a study of Benjamin Franklin’s London years, Civil War biographies, a photographic memoir of the Civil Rights Movement, and critical works on William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and other Southern writers. In 2008, he co-edited the book Inside the Church of Flannery O'Connor: Sacrament, Sacramental, and the Sacred in Her Fiction.


Peede then returned home to Mississippi, working at Millsaps College in Jackson from 1997 to 2003 as director of communications and founding editor of Millsaps Magazine.


Peede’s first public service experience was at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the NEH’s sister institution, from 2003 to September 2011.  He served as counselor to Chair Dana Gioia for four years, director of the Big Read program for two years and director of Operation Homecoming, which helped war veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and their families write about their experiences. Beginning in July 2007, he served as NEA’s literature grants director.


From December 2011 to 2016, Peede was publisher of the Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR) at the University of Virginia. During his tenure, VQR increased its annual online reach by more than 400,000 readers and expanded its paid readership to 51 countries.


Peede has taught community college courses and been a guest lecturer at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, the University of Virginia, and other institutions. He has served as board president of the Piedmont Council for the Arts, as director and board vice-chair of the SonEdna Foundation (2013-2015), and on the National Council of the Margaret Walker Center archive at Jackson State University.


Jon Parrish Peede is married to Rev. Nancy Hollomon-Peede. They have one daughter, Somerset Kea Peede.

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Official Biography (

Trump Appoints Former Lit Mag Editor to Top Post (by Melissa Silverman, Ploughshares)

Meet Acting NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede (by Stephen Kidd, National Humanities Alliance)


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