Walter Lord
John Walter Lord, Jr. was an American author
An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

, best known for his documentary-style non-fiction account A Night to Remember, about the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

Early life

Lord was born in Baltimore, Maryland to John Walterhouse Lord and Henrietta neé Hoffman. 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")
Baltimore Steam Packet Company
The Baltimore Steam Packet Company, which was also known as the , was an American steamship line from 1840 to 1962, providing overnight steamboat service on the Chesapeake Bay, primarily between Baltimore, Maryland, and Norfolk, Virginia...

 steamship firm in the 1890s.

Following high school at Baltimore's Gilman School
Gilman School
Gilman School is a private preparatory school for boys located in the Roland Park neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1897 as the Country School for Boys, it was the first country day school in the United States. Gilman enrolls approximately 978 students, ranging from kindergarten to...

, he studied history at Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

, graduating in 1939. Lord then enrolled at Yale Law School
Yale Law School
Yale Law School, or YLS, is the law school of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Established in 1824, it offers the J.D., LL.M., J.S.D. and M.S.L. degrees in law. It also hosts visiting scholars, visiting researchers and a number of legal research centers...

, interrupting his studies to join the Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 after the attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, he was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services
Office of Strategic Services
The Office of Strategic Services was a United States intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was the wartime intelligence agency, and it was a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency...

 as a code clerk in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 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.


While Lord wrote eleven bestselling books on such subjects as Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

 (Day of Infamy, 1957), the Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

 (Incredible Victory, 1967), the Battle of the Alamo
Battle of the Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched an assault on the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar . All but two of the Texian defenders were killed...

 (A Time to Stand, 1961), Arctic exploration
Arctic exploration
Arctic exploration is the physical exploration of the Arctic region of the Earth. The region that surrounds the North Pole. It refers to the historical period during which mankind has explored the region north of the Arctic Circle...

 (Peary to the Pole, 1963), pre-World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 America (The Good Years: From 1900 to the First World War, 1960), Coastwatchers
The Coastwatchers, also known as the Coast Watch Organisation, Combined Field Intelligence Service or Section C, Allied Intelligence Bureau, were Allied military intelligence operatives stationed on remote Pacific islands during World War II to observe enemy movements and rescue stranded Allied...

 (Lonely Vigil, 1977) and the civil rights struggle
Civil rights movement
The civil rights movement was a worldwide political movement for equality before the law occurring between approximately 1950 and 1980. In many situations it took the form of campaigns of civil resistance aimed at achieving change by nonviolent forms of resistance. In some situations it was...

 (The Past That Would Not Die, 1965), he is best known for his best-selling 1955 book A Night to Remember about the sinking of the Titanic. The book was made into a popular 1958 British movie of the same name. In writing A Night to Remember, Lord took the time to track down 63 Titanic survivors to get their stories and wrote a dramatic, minute-by-minute account of the ocean liner's sinking on her maiden voyage. He also authored another book about the Titanic titled The Night Lives On, published in 1986.
Shortly after going to work as a copywriter for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, Lord published The Fremantle Diary, edited and annotated from the journals of the British officer and Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 sympathizer, Arthur Fremantle
Arthur Fremantle
General Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, GCMG, CB was a British soldier, a member of Her Majesty's Coldstream Guards, and a notable British witness to the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War...

, who toured the South for three months in 1863. It was a mild but surprising success in 1954, when Mr. Lord was well into completing A Night to Remember.

In his later years, Lord was renowned for his knowledge of the Titanic catastrophe, frequently lecturing at meetings of the Titanic Historical Society
Titanic Historical Society
The Titanic Historical Society, Inc. is a non-profit organization founded in 1963, whose purpose is the preservation of the history of the famous ocean liner RMS Titanic, which sank on April 15, 1912, in one of the greatest maritime disasters in history.Headquartered in Indian Orchard,...

. In 1997, Lord served as a consultant to director James Cameron
James Cameron
James Francis Cameron is a Canadian-American film director, film producer, screenwriter, editor, environmentalist and inventor...

 during the filming of the movie Titanic
Titanic (1997 film)
Titanic is a 1997 American epic romance and disaster film directed, written, co-produced, and co-edited by James Cameron. A fictionalized account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson, Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater and Billy Zane as Rose's fiancé, Cal...

. The "sequel" to Titanic, Ghosts of the Abyss
Ghosts of the Abyss
Ghosts of the Abyss is a 2003 documentary film released by Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media. It was Disney's first film produced in 3-D and was directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker James Cameron after his Oscar winning film Titanic...

is dedicated to Lord's memory.


Lord, a lifelong bachelor, died after a long struggle with Parkinson's disease
Parkinson's disease
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system...

 at his Manhattan home at the age of 84. Noted historian David McCullough
David McCullough
David Gaub McCullough is an American author, narrator, historian, and lecturer. He is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian award....

 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 the Lord family 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.


Lord published twelve historical works:
  • 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)

External links

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