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Dr. Johnson made history come alive

There are profesors and there are teachers: Ludwell H. Johnson III was a teacher.

He also was the William H. Pullen Professor Emeritus of history at the College of William and Mary, who died in June after a trying illness. But it was the art of teaching that endeared him to hundreds of former students and dozens of history colleagues.

Dr. Johnson spent 35 years at William and Mary teaching American History and was recognized by the Virginia General Assembly in 1997 (five years after his retirement) for his service to the college, especially noting his "legendary" Civil War courses.

My personal experience in his classroom began in the second semester of my freshman year when he captivated my interest in the whole depth and breadth of American History. It was a general survey course that he fashioned from a routine lecture into a teacher/student experience. That was a pretty tall task since there were more than 100 students in the class.

Through the years Dr. Johnson and I became more that teacher/student, we became friends and he followed by own professional work and especially was interested in my research on William and Mary. It was easy to bounce ideas off him and he likewise enjoyed asking probing questions regarding my own historical interests. And he was always encouraging, whether it be an impression or a task.

He wrote two books, most notably "Red River Campaign: Politics and Cotton in the Civil War," and countless articles and reviews. Dr. Johnson's easy flowing narrative in a major section of the two-volume, multi-author William and Mary scholarly history published in 1993 stood out, in my mind, as the most readable section of the book.

His teaching, leadership and scholarship were recognized by the college when he received the Thomas Jefferson Award, William and Mary's highest administrative honor.

Dr. Johnson was a special person. The likes of him will not pass this way again. He will be sorely missed for indelable mark he left on so many of his students — his extraordinary love of history.

Wilford Kale

James City County

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