Walter Lord, 1958
October 8, 1917|
|Died||May 19, 2002
Manhattan, New York
|Resting place||Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore|
|Alma mater||Princeton University|
|Notable awards||Francis Parkman Prize for Special Achievement (1994)|
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.
In July 1926 at the age of 9 he travelled across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Cherbourg and Southampton on the RMS Olympic, the sister ship of the Titanic. Following high school at Baltimore's Gilman School, he studied history at Princeton University, graduating in 1939. 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.
Lord wrote or edited and annotated eleven bestselling books 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).
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 Titanic, became a best seller 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. Lord's knowledge of the Titanic catastrophe, achieved considerable renown, and he frequently lectured at meetings of the Titanic Historical Society. Then, in his final years, Lord wrote another book about the Titanic titled The Night Lives On, published in 1986. In 1997, Lord served as a consultant to director James Cameron during the filming of the movie Titanic. The 2003 "sequel" to Titanic, Ghosts of the Abyss was dedicated to Lord's memory.
Lord, a lifelong bachelor, died on May 19, 2002 after a long struggle with Parkinson's disease at his Manhattan home at the age of 84. 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."
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.
In 2009 Jenny Lawrence edited and published The Way It Was: Walter Lord on His Life and Books. In the late 1980s Lawrence 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.
- 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)
- "Francis Parkman Prize for Special Achievement – The Society of American Historians". sah.columbia.edu. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
- Alexander Crosby Brown (1961). Steam Packets on the Chesapeake. Cambridge, Maryland: Cornell Maritime Press. LCCN 61012580.
- "Titanic Historical Society, Inc. : Walter Lord Memories of the Olympic". titanic1.org. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
- Frederick N. Rasmussen (May 21, 2002). "Baltimore-born author dies, wrote classic Titanic book". The Baltimore Sun.
- Lord edited and annotated but did not write The Fremantle Diary (1954).
- Lord, Walter (June 1965). The Past That Would Not Die. The Past That Would Not Die (Harpercollins). ISBN 978-0-06-012700-8.
- Lord, Walter (1986). The Night Lives On: Thoughts, Theories and Revelations about the Titanic. London: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-027900-8.
- "Titanic Historical Society, Inc. : Walter Lord". titanic1.org. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
- "Mathey College – Walter Lord Society". princeton.edu. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
- 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."
- Lawrence, Jenny, ed. (July 2009). The Way It Was: Walter Lord on His Life and Books. Ubuildabook. ISBN 978-0-615-25973-4.