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), and 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. There, with the help of two brilliant editors, Don Vorderman and Beverly Kimes, 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, Finest Hour. I left the Society to others in the 1970s in single-minded pursuit of an obsession with 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,” a 1936 Packard Model 999 One Twenty convertible owned 2005-13. Gatsby now resides in Germany.

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, which gives us longer legs on the interstates to attend old car tours well away from home. The Starliner was designed for Raymond Loewy by my old friend Bob Bourke, who is no longer with us. I wish he could to see this beautiful car, the high point, I believe, of American production styling in the 1950s:

Our 1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner at the Mount Washington, Hotel, Bretton Woods, N.H.: Robert Bourke’s immortal lines still look modern after all these years.

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 this small club would morph into an institution 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 64 pages, or that I would survive 140 quarterly deadlines.

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 five books of quotations, Winston Churchill by Himself (2008), The Definitive Wit of Winston Churchill (2009). The Patriot’s Churchill (2010),  All Will Be Well: Good Advice from Win­ston Churchill (2011), and Churchill in His Own Words (2012). I am now writing what I hope will be the first of several “Kindle Singles” on special aspects of the Churchill saga.

Retiring as editor of Finest Hour after the Autumn 2014 edition, I joined Hillsdale College, publishers of Sir Winston’s Official Biography, as a Senior Fellow for the Churchill Project. It was a delight to join my old friend, Hillsdale President Larry Arnn, where Winston Churchill has a good and permanent home. Together with many bright young people—I call them the A-team—we are planning new, exciting educational programs on Churchill’s life and philosophy, reaching thousands through seminars, conferences, online courses, web events, and streaming video. Click here for more details and go to “Appearances” for upcoming events.

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 we landed there in 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.” What does one say to such an honor? Only 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 an honor—and certainly the only likely credit on my crematory urn—to devote a career to Winston Churchill, the Washington or Lincoln of his century; to rise above the trivial and the legendary, above the frothy soap opera picture, above the memorabilia, above even the blood, toil, tears and sweat; to defend his reputation 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.

Richard and Ian Langworth with their guest Lady Soames, New Hampshire, 1992. For more on that grand lady see https://richardlangworth.com/soames. for Ian’s accomplishment decades later, see www.artillery.com.

Churchill wrote of the culminating event of his life, the night he became Prime Minister, 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.

We once referred to the seven (count ’em) people who subscribed to both my Churchill and Packard magazines 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.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard Langworth January 16, 2015 at 15:34

Sean, that’s truly an amazing coincidence. I will have to post a pic of my Starliner, which replaced my Packard. Wow, quite a risk to have one of those rusters down here! I wrote about the Carrera over the years–would like to see your car! Jonathan will tell you where to find me.

Sean January 15, 2015 at 00:48

Small world indeed! I’m a Bahamian living in Nassau but intent on buying a second home in Eleuthera (drawn to Rainbow Bay which Jonathon Morris has taken me round several times to look at various properties) and my most prized toy – get this – is a 1953 Studebaker Commander Starlight ex Carrera Panamericana (heavily modified (with NASCAR spec engine) for that event which it competed in twice in 2000 and 2003 with the previous owners). I took it down to Eleuthera last year as part of the Bahamas Antique Auto Club’s contingent to the Ali Antique Car Show in Hatchet Bay. Had a great time. Delighted to come across your website.
Congratulations on your many fine achievements
Hopefully I will get to meet you one of these days. Sean

anthony January 22, 2012 at 10:34

This page is now at the top of my favorites. What a great read!

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

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

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.

Leave a Comment