September 8: Charles Haven Ladd Johnston (1943)

Charles H.L. Johnston was the author of numerous books on historic figures, including Attila the Hun, George Armstrong Custer, Kit Carson, and Sam Houston. He also authored many books in a famous leader series with some of the following subjects: Generals of the Great War, Discoverers and Explorers of America, Calvary Leaders, Indian Chiefs, Scouts, Frontiersmen and American Athletes. Johnston was born in Washington, DC, the third of four children of Dr. William Waring Johnston and Esther D. Ladd. His father and grandfather had both been distinguished local medical doctors. Both had been professors at Columbian University (now GWU), consulting physicians at several local hospitals as well as having successful practices. All four children of William and Esther Johnston were baptized at Epiphany over a six-year period, with the subject of this entry receiving that sacrament on October 11, 1877.

As a young man, Charles Johnston had diphtheria. His mother died of the disease at age 43. Johnston attended DC schools, the Lawrenceville School, St. Mark’s and then to Harvard, where he graduated in the class of 1899. While at Harvard, Johnston was editor of the Harvard Lampoon, a long running undergraduate humor publication. After graduation, he worked with a publisher in Boston before returning to Harvard in 1902 as an assistant instructor in the English department. One of Johnston’s pupils was future U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt. Johnston also taught English at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Johnston and his brother married women who were sisters.

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