About

I never planned to be a “his­to­rian.” I was a Chem­istry drop-out at Rens­se­laer Poly­tech­nic Insti­tute (1960), a fail-safe grad­u­ate of Wag­ner Col­lege (1963), a 120-day-wonder U.S. Coast Guard offi­cer (1964-67), a bored bureau­crat at the Penn­syl­va­nia Depart­ment of Health (1967-70). Chance sale of a car arti­cle landed me an edi­tor­ship at Auto­mo­bile Quar­terly, then in its hey­day, where I got into my bones the essen­tials of writ­ing his­tory. I left AQ to free­lance in 1975 and have been, as my wife likes to remind me, unem­ployed ever since.

Sleep­less in Har­ris­burg, I began col­lect­ing stamps and founded the Churchill Study Unit to inves­ti­gate Churchill com­mem­o­ra­tive postage in 1968. Three years later it became the Inter­na­tional Churchill Soci­ety, a broader orga­ni­za­tion for any­one inter­ested (pro and con) in Win­ston Churchill, his life and times, and edit­ing its quar­terly jour­nal, Finest Hour. I left the Soci­ety to oth­ers in the 1970s in single-minded pur­suit of an obses­sion with funny old cars. I wrote, co-wrote or pub­lished  54 books and 2000 arti­cles on auto­mo­tive history—American, Eng­lish and Euro­pean, most of them “pot­boil­ers,” but a few have stood the test of time: Kaiser-Frazer: Last Onslaught on Detroit, Tri­umph Cars, The Stude­baker Cen­tury, The Ency­clo­pe­dia of Amer­i­can Cars, The Com­plete Book of Col­lectible Cars, GM: 100 Years, and Packard: A His­tory of the Motor­car and the Company.

Barbara, Richard and “Gatsby” (1936 Packard Model 999 One Twenty convertible)

For me, Packard built the grand­est cars in Amer­ica. I had the honor to serve as edi­tor of The Packard Cor­morant from 1975 through 2001, and have been a trustee of the Packard Motor­car Foun­da­tion since 2003. I was betimes edi­tor of The Mile­stone Car, The Vin­tage Tri­umph and Car Clas­sics mag­a­zines, and sam­pled about forty col­lec­tor cars. For eight years I owned a won­der­ful 1936 Packard One Twenty con­vert­ible named “Gatsby,” now in Germany.

With part of the pro­ceeds I bought a body-off restora­tion, a 1953 Stude­baker Com­man­der Star­liner with stick over­drive. My old friend Bob Bourke, who is no longer with us, would love to see this beau­ti­ful car, the high point, I believe, of Amer­i­can pro­duc­tion styling in the 1950s:

MtWashingtonLoDef

In 1981 the door­bell rang and Win­ston Churchill was stand­ing there (fig­u­ra­tively). I had dug out an old box of stamps and picked up his won­der­ful auto­bi­og­ra­phy, My Early Life: exag­ger­ated, ego­tis­ti­cal and not quite accu­rate, but in Harold Nicolson’s words, “like a beaker of cham­pagne.”  I revived the Churchill Soci­ety, mori­bund since 1975, and pro­duced a new issue of its jour­nal Finest Hour.Lit­tle did I imag­ine that by 1995 the Soci­ety would become The Churchill Cen­tre, ded­i­cated “to fos­ter­ing lead­er­ship, states­man­ship, vision and bold­ness among demo­c­ra­tic and freedom-loving peo­ples through the thoughts, words, works and deeds of Win­ston Spencer Churchill,” or that Finest Hour would grow to a 64-page mag­a­zine and pub­lish its 150th issue in 2011. I have also since become a his­tor­i­cal con­sul­tant to the National Churchill Museum at West­min­ster Col­lege, Ful­ton, Mis­souri, the offi­cial U.S. national memo­r­ial to Win­ston Churchill.

Along the way I began col­lect­ing Churchill’s books and, because I couldn’t get enough, was a Churchill spe­cial­ist book­seller from 1982 to 2004, when I sold the busi­ness to Chartwell Book­sellers in New York City. I pub­lished an Amer­i­can edi­tion of Churchill’s rare 1931 book, India (1991), A Connoisseur’s Guide to the Books of Sir Win­ston Churchill (1998) and four books of quo­ta­tions, Win­ston Churchill by Him­self (2008), The Defin­i­tive Wit of Win­ston Churchill (2009). The Patriot’s Churchill (2010) and  All Will Be Well: Good Advice from Win­ston Churchill (2011).

Richard Langworth, Eleuthera, Bahamas

Light­house Point, as far south as you can get on Eleuthera, where you can just see the north­ern tip of Cat Island to the south on a per­fectly clear day.

And now for some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. In 2003 we built a house on Eleuthera, Bahamas, which we’ve loved since 1981, where Bar­bara and I now spend four months a year, writ­ing, play­ing, and edit­ing our local prop­erty own­ers asso­ci­a­tion newslet­ter, The Rain­bow Times.

In 1998 Her Majesty the Queen saw fit to reward me with a CBE (Com­man­der of the Most Excel­lent Order of the British Empire), “for ser­vices to Anglo-American under­stand­ing and the mem­ory of Sir Win­ston Churchill.” I could only respond with Churchill’s words when he received the Nobel Prize for Lit­er­a­ture in 1953: “I am proud, but also I must admit, awestruck at your deci­sion to include me. I do hope you are right. I feel we are both run­ning a con­sid­er­able risk and that I do not deserve it. But I shall have no mis­giv­ings if you have none.”

It has been the work of Finest Hour (cer­tainly the only likely credit to stip­ple on my cre­ma­tory urn) to reflect on Win­ston Churchill, the Wash­ing­ton or Lin­coln of mod­ern times; to rise above the triv­ial and the leg­endary, above the frothy soap opera pic­ture, above the mem­o­ra­bilia, above even the blood, sweat and tears; to defend his great­ness from carpers and cranks; to show that warts and all, Churchill was one of a kind—a politi­cian who not only talked, but thought—not just the per­son of a cen­tury, but of a millennium.

Churchill Centre Emery Reves Award to Tom Brokaw, Chicago, 2006: L-R: Laurence Geller, Tom Brokaw, Bill Ives, Celia Sandys, Richard Langworth.

Churchill Cen­tre Emery Reves Award to Tom Brokaw, Chicago, 2006. L-R: Lau­rence Geller, Tom Brokaw, Bill Ives, Celia Sandys, Richard Langworth.

Churchill wrote of the cul­mi­nat­ing event of his life, the night he became Prime Min­is­ter on 10 May 1940: “I thought I knew a good deal about it all, and was sure I should not fail.” Well, that is what this web­site is about: an oppor­tu­nity to share what I know; to answer ques­tions; to set the record right (and Churchill was not always right); to poke curi­ously into obscure cor­ners of his­tory; to learn more myself—and to com­mu­ni­cate with Churchill­lians, car nuts, Bahamian adven­tur­ers, an eclec­tic mix—but I do know a good deal about it all.

I once referred to the seven (count ’em) peo­ple who sub­scribed to both Finest Hour and The Packard Cor­morant as “The Sainted Seven Sub­scribers.” And that is what you are: a Sainted Web-Browser, for hav­ing landed here at richardlangworth.com. I hope the visit will reward you in some pleas­ant or use­ful way.

Be Socia­ble, Share!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Edmund Onward James January 21, 2010 at 18:32

I am pleased to subscribe to The Churchill Centre And Museum… and I have linked your review of the fascinating and superb film — The Gathering Storm — on my weblog piece with the same title.

Monty Waters July 29, 2010 at 16:44

Richard,
I’m pleased to catch up on your life since we last corresponded.
I was a member of the ICS during your editorship of Finest Hour, a sometime customer of your bookstore, and a person who has purchased at least two of your Churchill books. You once gave me some advice about selling a set of official biography companion volumes to another bookseller (who shall remain nameless), that were spot on.

I love old cars and have a large collection of books about them, somehow I’ve avoided yours, but my interests are mainly of foreign cars. Furthermore I’m suprised to learn that, like me you actually have a background in public health, though you gave it up for more interesting pursuits, alas, I lack your talents in writing: I think.

I qualify my statement because I’m now researching a biography of my grandfather, who was a Texas Ranger and marshal in far west Texas 1916-1920. It might not be very good but I know it will be read by his numerous descendants.

My best wishes to you and your lovely wife.

Monty Waters

Perry Joseph September 29, 2010 at 23:39

We share a common interest: Eleuthera

Enjoyed reading some of your blog, especially about the fishing lake. Missed that point of interest and will have to be sure to check it out on my next visit.

Thanks for sharing the information.

pj

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