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BLOOMINGTON - Ever since a boyhood vacation to Gettysburg, Christopher Phillips has been fascinated with the Civil War era of American history.

The graduate of both Illinois Wesleyan and Illinois State universities has written American history books and will appear in an upcoming PBS documentary series with tie-ins to the Civil War.

Phillips, an associate professor of history at the University of Cincinnati, will appear in an episode of "American Experience" called "Jesse James."

The episode is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. Monday on both public television stations WTVP in Peoria and WILL in Champaign-Urbana.

This is Phillips' first experience with being what he called "a talking head," and he's excited.

He expects his appearance will generate more public response than his five published books. He credited his Illinois Wesleyan education with preparing him to write.

"They trained me well," he said.

Besides a bachelor's degree in education from IWU, he has a master's degree in history from ISU and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

A teacher and writer, Phillips is living his dream, and the PBS documentary is icing on the cake.

The 2004 taping in New York was quite an experience.

"I wasn't told the exact questions," he said, adding that this was to ensure spontaneity.

Although a Civil War and Missouri history expert, Phillips knows a bit about Jesse James.

James robbed trains and banks and was a folk hero to some who admired his Southern sympathies.

The outlaw died in 1882 when shot by a former gang member looking to collect a reward, Phillips said.


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