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:


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!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Leave a Comment