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After postgraduate work at Indiana University in the late 1960s, Pickett was a professor of history at Rose-Hulman for 35 years. He was a Fulbright Scholar at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan in 1989-90, lecturing on American history, and taught American history on U.S. military bases in Korea as a visiting professor for the University of Maryland. He was an educational consultant to the American University of Kyrgyzstan (now called American University of Central Asia) in 2002. In 1992-93, he served as president of the Indiana Association of Historians. In 2006, he co-founded the Web History Center, a hub for archiving and preserving early Internet history, with branches in Indiana at Rose-Hulman and at California's Computer History Museum. Two of his lectures about Eisenhower were featured on C-SPAN's Book TV series in 2000 and 2002. Since 2016, he has been a member of the historical advisory panel for the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C. Pickett retired from teaching in 2007 but continues to write.
Over the course of his career, Pickett produced a number of books, journal articles, reviews, and oral histories.
Pickett wrote his doctoral thesis on Indiana Sen. Homer Capehart, and his 1990 book Homer E. Capehart: A Senator's Life was the first scholarly biography of the politician.Homer E. Capehart won an Award of Merit from the Ohio Museums Association in 1990.
Pickett's work on Eisenhower included two full-length books. Reviewer Lawrence S. Conner called 1995's Dwight David Eisenhower and American Power a "concise and readable" work that helped to revise previous historians' "harsh assessments of Eisenhower." Writing in Presidential Studies Quarterly, Herbert Parmet called the book a "gracefully written," more contemporary view of Eisenhower as a politician who "understood and moved with the rhythms of history." Pickett's 2000 book Eisenhower Decides to Run was one of the first scholarly looks at the 1952 presidential campaign, and focused particularly on Eisenhower's political reputation. Writing for Michigan State University's H-Net forum, Steven Wagner called the book "required reading for Eisenhower specialists" that helped to overturn the older consensus that Eisenhower was only a passive player in his own political career, and made the case that long-simmering political ambitions led to his consciously seeking the presidency in order to block the ambitions of Ohio Senator Robert A. Taft. Reviewer Thomas R. Maddux wrote that Pickett's book challenged the "standard view advanced by Stephen Ambrose and others" that Eisenhower was a reluctant candidate, positing instead that Eisenhower was cautious after witnessing the controversial political rise of his military rival Douglas MacArthur, and was a more skilled behind-the-scenes leader than generally acknowledged.
Pickett also conducted several collections of oral interviews on Capehart and the histories of Terre Haute and surrounding Vigo County and Rose-Hulman.
Pickett, William B. (2000). Eisenhower Decides To Run: Presidential Politics and Cold War Strategy. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. ISBN1-56-663787-2. OCLC43953970.
Pickett, William B. (1999). To Be the Best: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 1974-1999. Louisville: Four Colour Imports. ISBN0-91-441401-1. OCLC42520799.
Pickett, William B. (2007). "Eisenhower, Khrushchev, and the U-2 Affair: A Forty-six Year Retrospective". In Clifford, J. Garry; Wilson, Theodore A. (eds.). Presidents, Diplomats, and Other Mortals: Essays Honoring Robert H. Ferrell. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press. pp. 137-153. ISBN978-0-8262-1747-9.
Pickett, William B. (2006). "Dwight D. Eisenhower: His Legacy in World Affairs". In Dean, Virgil W. (ed.). John Brown to Bob Dole: Movers and Shakers in Kansas History. Lawrence, Kans.: University Press of Kansas. ISBN0-7006-1429-X.
Pickett, William B. (September 2004). "The Firebombing of the Terre Haute Holocaust Museum: A Hoosier Community Responds to an Assault on Collective Memory". Indiana Magazine of History. 100 (3): 243-257. JSTOR27792557.
Pickett, William B. (2003). "General Andrew Jackson Goodpaster: Managing National Security". In Anderson, David L. (ed.). The Human Tradition in America Since 1945. Wilmington, Del.: SR Books. pp. 25-46. ISBN978-0842029438.
Pickett, William B. (Fall 1992). "The Historiography of American Foreign Policy". Organization of American Historians. OAH Magazine of History. Oxford University Press. 7 (2): 13-15. doi:10.1093/maghis/7.2.13. JSTOR25162869.
Pickett, William B. (1992). "Vietnam, 1964-1973: An American Dilemma". The Journal of Military History. 56 (1): 113. doi:10.2307/1985713. JSTOR1985713.
Pickett, William B. (June 1985). "The Eisenhower Solarium Notes". The SHAFR Newsletter. Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. 16: 1-10.
Pickett, William B. Biography: Homer E. Capehart, 1969-1973. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Center for Documentary Research and Practice, Indiana University Center for History and Memory. ohrc015.
Pickett, William B. (1997-98). "Oral History Interviews". Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Archives & Special Collections.CS1 maint: date format (link)
^Pickett, William B. (1974). Homer E. Capehart: The Making of a Hoosier Senator (Thesis). Indiana University. OCLC2715420.
^McMahon, Robert J. (June 1997). "Book Review: Dwight David Eisenhower and American Power by William B. Pickett and Eisenhower's New-Look National Security Policy, 1953-61 by Saki Dockrill". Journal of American History. 84 (1): 304-306. doi:10.2307/2952874. JSTOR2952874.
^Osgood, Kenneth A. (September 2002). "Book Review: Eisenhower Decides to Run: Presidential Politics and Cold War Strategy by William B. Pickett and Eisenhower at Columbia by Travis Beal Jacobs". Journal of American History. 89 (2): 709-711. doi:10.2307/3092303. JSTOR3092303.
^Biography: Homer E. Capehart, 1969-1973. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Center for Documentary Research and Practice, Indiana University Center for History and Memory. ohrc015. Retrieved May 29, 2018.