Walter Lord

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Walter Lord
Walter Lord, 1958
Walter Lord, 1958
Born (1917-10-08)October 8, 1917
Baltimore, Maryland
Died May 19, 2002(2002-05-19) (aged 84)
Manhattan, New York
Resting place Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore
Occupation Historian
Nationality USA
Alma mater Princeton University; Yale Law School
Period 1952–1986
Genre Narrative history
Notable awards Francis Parkman Prize for Special Achievement (1994)[1]

John Walter Lord, Jr. (October 8, 1917 – May 19, 2002), was an American author, best known for his documentary-style non-fiction account A Night to Remember (1955), about the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

Early life

Lord was born in Baltimore, Maryland to John Walterhouse Lord and Henrietta neé Hoffman on October 8, 1917. His father was a lawyer, who died when Walter was just three years old. His grandfather, Richard Curzon Hoffman, was president of the Baltimore Steam Packet Company ("Old Bay Line") steamship firm in the 1890s.[2]

In July 1926, at the age of 9, he traveled across the Atlantic Ocean, from New York to Cherbourg and Southampton, on the RMS Olympic, the Titanic's sister ship.[3] Following high school at Baltimore's Gilman School, he studied history at Princeton University, graduating in 1939.[4] Lord then enrolled at Yale Law School, interrupting his studies to join the Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor. During World War II, he was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services as a code clerk in London, in 1942. He was the agency's secretariat when the war ended in 1945. Afterwards, Lord returned to Yale where he earned a degree in law.[4]


Lord wrote or edited and annotated eleven bestselling books[5] on such diverse subjects as Pearl Harbor (Day of Infamy, 1957), the Battle of Midway (Incredible Victory, 1967), the Battle of the Alamo (A Time to Stand, 1961), the Battle of Baltimore (The Dawn's Early Light, 1972), Arctic exploration (Peary to the Pole, 1963), pre-World War I America (The Good Years: From 1900 to the First World War, 1960), Coastwatchers (Lonely Vigil, 1977) and the civil rights struggle (The Past That Would Not Die, 1965[6]).

Memorial bench engraved with Lord's book titles

Shortly after going to work as a copywriter for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in New York City, Lord published The Fremantle Diary, edited and annotated from the journals of the British officer and Confederate sympathizer, Arthur Fremantle, who toured the South for three months in 1863. It became a mild, but surprising, success in 1954, as Lord was well into completing A Night to Remember, which would win him much popular acclaim.

A Night to Remember, about the sinking of the RMS Titanic, became a bestseller in 1955 and was made into a popular 1958 British movie of the same name. The historian tracked down 63 Titanic survivors and wrote a dramatic, minute-by-minute account of the ocean liner's sinking during her maiden voyage.[4] Lord's knowledge of the Titanic catastrophe achieved considerable renown, and he frequently lectured at meetings of the Titanic Historical Society. In his final years, Lord wrote another book about the Titanic titled The Night Lives On,[7] published in 1986. In the next decade, Lord served as a consultant to director James Cameron during the filming of the movie Titanic (1997). The sequel to Cameron's film Titanic, Ghosts of the Abyss (2003), was dedicated to Lord's memory.[citation needed]


Lord's grave in the family plot at Green Mount Cemetery

Lord, a lifelong bachelor, died at age 84 on May 19, 2002 after a long struggle with Parkinson's disease, at his Manhattan home.[4] Noted historian David McCullough said of Lord at his death, "He was one of the most generous and kind-hearted men I've ever known, and when I had stars in my eyes and wanted to become a writer, he was a great help. I'll always be indebted to him."[4]

Walter Lord is buried in his maternal family's plot at historic Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, marked by a marble bench listing the books he authored.[citation needed]

In 2009, Jenny Lawrence edited and published The Way It Was: Walter Lord on His Life and Books. In the late 1980s, Lawrence had recorded hours of interviews she had with Lord, in which he discussed his writing and life. After chapters on his early life in Baltimore and up to his time with the OSS in London and Paris, chapters are devoted to the research and writing of each of his books.[citation needed]


Lord published twelve historical works:[8][9]

  • The Fremantle Diary (1954) (ed.)
  • A Night to Remember (1955)
  • Day of Infamy (1957)
  • The Good Years (1960)
  • A Time to Stand (1961)
  • Peary and the Pole (1963)
  • The Past That Would Not Die (1965)
  • Incredible Victory (1967)
  • The Dawn's Early Light (1972)
  • Lonely Vigil (1977)
  • The Miracle of Dunkirk (1982)
  • The Night Lives On (1986)[10]

See also


  1. "Francis Parkman Prize for Special Achievement – The Society of American Historians". Retrieved August 31, 2010. 
  2. Alexander Crosby Brown (1961). Steam Packets on the Chesapeake. Cambridge, Maryland: Cornell Maritime Press. LCCN 61012580. 
  3. "Titanic Historical Society, Inc. : Walter Lord Memories of the Olympic". Retrieved April 9, 2012. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Frederick N. Rasmussen (May 21, 2002). "Baltimore-born author dies, wrote classic Titanic book". The Baltimore Sun. 
  5. Lord edited and annotated but did not write The Fremantle Diary (1954).
  6. Lord, Walter (June 1965). The Past That Would Not Die. The Past That Would Not Die. Harpercollins. ISBN 978-0-06-012700-8. 
  7. Lord, Walter (1986). The Night Lives On: Thoughts, Theories and Revelations about the Titanic. London: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-027900-8. 
  8. "Titanic Historical Society, Inc. : Walter Lord". Retrieved August 31, 2010. 
  9. "Mathey College – Walter Lord Society". Retrieved August 31, 2010. 
  10. Lord, Walter (1986). The Night Lives On (1st ed.). New York: Morrow. ISBN 9780688049393. Full title of some later editions: The Night Lives On: Thoughts, Theories and Revelations about the Titanic. 

Further reading

  • Lawrence, Jenny, ed. (July 2009). The Way It Was: Walter Lord on His Life and Books. Ubuildabook. ISBN 978-0-615-25973-4. 

External links