John Shelton Reed grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee, studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University. Most of the 22 books he has written or edited are about the South. His articles have appeared in periodicals ranging from Science to Victorian Studies to Southern Living, and his country song "My Tears Spoiled My Aim" has been recorded by Tommy Edwards. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fellow of the National Humanities Center, and twice a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He has lectured at over 300 colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad, including a number of universities in India as a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer, and has held visiting positions at many institutions, including the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Institute of United States Studies at the University of London, and All Souls College, Oxford University. For the academic year 1996-97 he was the Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at the University of Cambridge, where he is now an Honorary Fellow of St. Catharine's College and a Life Member of Clare Hall. For some years he taught at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, retiring in 2000 as William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of sociology and director of the Howard Odum Institute for Research in Social Science. He helped to found the university's Center for the Study of the American South and the quarterly SouthernCultures. He has served as president of the Southern Sociological Society and the Southern Association for Public Opinion Research, and was appointed by President Reagan to the council of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has received a number of prizes, honorary degrees, and awards, including election to the Fellowship of Southern Writers, which he served as Chancellor, 2009-2011. In 2023 he was presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by the governor of North Carolina. He has been a consultant for Southern Living, Quaker Grits, and the Turner South cable network; dramaturg for the musical comedy Kudzu; and a judge at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. He is co-founder and Éminence Grease of the Campaign for Real Barbecue (TrueCue.org) and a lieutenant colonel in the Unorganized Militia of South Carolina.