April 1, 2004 by

Michael King


Categories: Education, Media, Writers/Editors

mking.jpgMichael King, a New Zealand author and the leading historian of the indigenous Maori, died on March 30 in an automobile accident. He was 59.
Although he was born in Wellington to parents who relished their Irish and Scottish roots, King was more interested in the native culture of New Zealand. He studied English and history at Victoria University, and earned a master’s degree from the University of Waikato.
King taught journalism for a while, then became a reporter for the Waikato Times. There he was assigned to cover Maori issues, a beat that brought him into close contact with the Tainui tribes. Over time, King became fluent in the Maori language and protocol, skills he used to write the books “Moko: Maori Tattooing in the 20th Century” and “Maori: A Photographic and Social History.” He also penned “Te Puea” and “Whina” — biographies of charismatic Maori leaders, Princess Te Puea Heringa and Dame Whina Cooper.
King’s ground-breaking book, “Being Pakeha: An Encounter With New Zealand and the Maori Renaissance,” was the first to examine the non-Maori ingredients of New Zealand society and culture. It also included what he called a “selective and ethnic autobiography” of his childhood. His professional life was recounted in the 1992 sequel, “Hidden Places: A Memoir in Journalism.”
In the 1990s, King developed a reputation as a respected literary biographer for chronicling the lives of authors Frank Sargeson and Janet Frame. His final book, “The Penguin History of New Zealand,” became a surprise best-seller.
A former president of the New Zealand Society of Authors, King was awarded an Order of the British Empire in 1988 for services to New Zealand literature. He received the first Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement for nonfiction in 2003. In December, King was named the New Zealand Herald’s New Zealander of the Year. Before the accident that took his life, King was fighting cancer.
His wife, Maria Jungowska, was also killed when their car hit a tree and burst into flames south of Auckland. She was a respected book editor who specialized in New Zealand history, biographies and children’s fiction and nonfiction.
Watch a Tribute to Michael and Maria From ZB News

5 Responses to Michael King

  1. Robert O'Hara

    A wonderful historian who made history live for the “average bloke” and who did more towards bringing Maori and Pakeha together than any other New Zealander living or dead. He created a positive climate in which each culture was viewed with greater understanding.

  2. Mary-Helen Ward

    Reading this for the first time, months after Micheal’s death, I suddenly feel a much further than 4 hour’s flight from New Zealand. How could I not have known that a person who had such an impact on the way that kiwis saw themselves had gone?

  3. Bev Anderson

    I have only just found out about the death of Michael King and his wife last year. I am not a Kiwi but have visited many times in the last 8 years and have a keen interest in the culture and history. I recently read Michael’s book “Being Pakeha Now” and found it such a wonderful insight. Michael was obviously a man who cared about racial harmony and was passionate obout his country. This is such a very sad loss and my sincere condolences go to his family, friends and indeed the nation.

  4. Bobby McDougal

    I mourn the death of Michael King with grief. I have recently read The Penguin History of New Zealand and have found it a good book for reading. I am not a Kiwi, but as a Pakeha I find it sad that he could die at such a bad time. My sincerest apologies to his family.

  5. Mike King

    I love hearing of the leaders and legend of what ever area they come. It is individuals like Mike King that really set an example for our future generations and set the precedent for future leaders to come.
    King Regards, Mike King.

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