Jon Parrish Peede is the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. His previous positions include Publisher of the Virginia Quarterly Review at the University of Virginia, Literature Grants Director at the National Endowment for the Arts, Counselor to NEA Chairman Dana Gioia, Director of the NEA Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience program, Director of the NEA Big Read program, Director of Communications at Millsaps College, founding Editor of Millsaps Magazine, and Editor at Mercer University Press with a focus on the humanities, literature, and Southern culture. As a speechwriter, he has written for a U.S. President, First Lady, Librarian of Congress, and military and corporate leaders.
In his NEH capacity, he served in an ex officio capacity on numerous boards for federally funded organizations, including the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
A member of American Mensa, he completed his B.S. in English at Vanderbilt University and M.A. in Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. During graduate school, he worked part-time in several editorial positions, including as Head Writer of SouthVine newspaper, Senior Editor of CrossRoads: A Journal of Southern Culture, and Editorial Assistant of the Mississippi Folklore Registrar.
His professional career has been spent at six institutions: Mercer University (1994–1996), Millsaps College (1997–2003), National Endowment for the Arts (2003–2011), University of Virginia (2011–2016), National Endowment for the Humanities (2017–2021), and Mississippi Valley State University ((2021–present).
At Mercer, he acquired and edited more than 25 books, including colonial Georgia histories, a study of Benjamin Franklin’s London years, Civil War biographies, the definitive history of the Spiller & Burr revolver, a photographic memoir of the Civil Rights Movement, the essays of Austen Warren and George A. Panichas, and critical works on William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and other Southern writers.
In addition to serving as Counselor to NEA Chairman Dana Gioia for four years, Peede oversaw the agency's funding of literary organizations and fellowships to creative writers and translators. He also served as an editorial advisor for bilingual poetry anthologies published in partnership with the governments of China, Mexico, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, and Russia. He managed the literature pavilion at Library of Congress’s National Book Festival for many years, and developed and ran the bookstore for the 2009 Guadalajara International Book Fair.
As Director of the NEA Operation Homecoming program (2003–2011), he led writing workshops for U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan, Bahrain, England, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, and with the Navy and Marines in the Persian Gulf. He was co-director and co-producer of the accompanying educational CD, and he advised the Imperial War Museum in London about developing a documentary program for UK troops. He has been interviewed about wartime writing by the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Stars & Stripes, NPR, NBC Nightly News, and other international media outlets.
Under Peede's leadership (2011–2016), the Virginia Quarterly Review increased its annual online reach by more than 400,000 readers and expanded its paid readership to 51 countries. At VQR, he acquired numerous Pulitzer Prize winners, including Michael Dirda, Rita Dove, Beth Henley, Philip Kennicott, Kay Ryan, Elizabeth Strout, and Natasha Trethewey. He edited interviews with Nobel laureates Alice Munro and Derek Walcott, and he acquired fiction from internationally acclaimed novelists Richard Bausch, Ann Beattie, and Stephen King. His acquisitions have been reprinted in the Best American Short Stories, Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, Best American Travel, Best American Science & Nature, O. Henry, and Pushcart anthologies. He edited a 2014 National Magazine Award finalist.
As a literary critic, he is the editor of a bilingual anthology of contemporary American fiction and co-editor of a collection of essays on Flannery O'Connor. He has published book reviews, cultural criticism, and creative writing in newspapers, magazines, academic journals, books, and encyclopedias. He has interviewed a number of historians and authors, including Will C. Campbell, Shelby Foote, John Hope Franklin, Barry Hannah, Ellen Gilchrist, and Donna Tartt.
He has taught college courses and has been a guest lecturer at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, the University of Virginia, and other institutions. He has delivered remarks at more than 75 academic conferences, literary festivals, university programs, nonprofit events, and military installations.
With funding from three state humanities councils over the past 20 years, he has helped to organize a major conference on Southern literature and religion, led discussion groups for the Atlanta History Center, moderated numerous book festival panels, and served as a voice actor for a radio documentary.
In his mid-twenties, Peede created a book publishing company focused on limited editions of American literature with contributions by American Book Award winner Dana Gioia, Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Justice, and PEN/Malamud Award winner Barry Hannah. He also began an ongoing collection of thousands of early-American legal documents, correspondence, currency, and twentieth-century literary works, fine press printing, and ephemera.
He has served as Board Chair of the SonEdna Foundation (Charleston, MS) and on the National Council of the Margaret Walker Center Archive and Museum of the African-American Experience at Jackson State University (Jackson, MS). He also has served on numerous civic bodies, including the State Poet Laureate Selection Committee, State of Mississippi, Office of the Governor (2011); the Eudora Welty Chair for Southern Studies Committee, Millsaps College (1999–2004); and the Ferrol A. Sams, Jr., Distinguished Chair of English Committee, Mercer University (1995–1996).
His government cultural projects are preserved in the National Archives and Records Administration and in the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress. His VQR papers are preserved in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. His correspondence is in the Special Collections and University Archives in the Jean and Alexander Heard Library of Vanderbilt University. His donations of Southern literature and African-American literary manuscripts can be found at the Heard and Small libraries.
Jon Parrish Peede was born and raised in Mississippi and lives there with his family.