Charlton Ogburn 1911 – 1998

 

charlton ogburn
Charlton Ogburn, Jr., was the author of a dozen books and of many contributions to leading magazines.His literary output was distinguished by its variety of subject-matter. His account of a semi-guerrilla regiment in Burma in World War II, in which he served as a communications platoon-leader-The Marauders–probably was his best-known work, having been a choice of the Book-of-the-Month Club and been made into a motion picture starring Jeff Chandler by Warner Brothers. His account of his travels along the largely deserted north eastern shore in The Winter Beach- is considered a classic of nature-writing.

In a most ambitious undertaking–which followed a book on American railroads for the National Geographic Society–he explored in 800 pages the puzzle termed by Ralph Waldo Emerson “the first literary problem.” The case argued in “The- Mysterious- William- Shakespeare-: The Myth and the Reality”, is that the immortal poet-dramatist was Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, forced to mask his identity by the unyielding conventions of his class and the powerful self-interest of the Queen and those closest to her. Published in 1984, the book led to Charlton Ogburn’s appearance in a debate on William F.Buckley’s “Firing Line,” to a mock trial of Shakespeare’s identity before three Justices of the U. S. Supreme Court and another before three of their British equivalents in London and a television documentary, “The Shakespeare Mystery,” on the “Frontline” program.

Charlton’s parents had earlier been active in this cause célèbre-. His father Charlton Ogburn, a corporation lawyer (as well as general counsel for the American Federation of Labor and the National Planning Association) and his mother, Dorothy Stevens Ogburn, a writer of mystery novels, had collaborated on the massive This ‘Star of England’, published in 1952 and also presenting the case for de Vere as Shakespeare.

Charlton Ogburn, Jr., was born in Atlanta in 1911, the offspring of several generations of Georgians. However, after an early childhood in Savannah, he grew up mostly in New York. Graduating cum- laude from Harvard in 1932, he worked briefly at the Viking Press before fulfilling a youthful dream by journeying to and up the Amazon River for a client of his father’s with gold-mining interests. The result, many years later, was his novel The- Gold of the- River- Sea-, called “pure treasure” in the New York Times. Meanwhile, in his twenties, he had worked as a writer for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundatio and a reviewer at the Book-of-the- month Club. In World War II he spent four and a half years in the Army, progressing from private to captain in Military Intelligence.

Eleven years in the Department of State followed his return to civilian life during which Ogburn worked in Far and Middle Eastern affairs. In 1947 his duties took him to Java with the Security Council’s Committee of Good Offices in the Dutch-Indonesian conflict. There he met his future wife, Vera M. Weidman, who was serving in the U.S. Consulate General in Batavia, as Jakarta was then called. Back in the United States, they were married in 1951 and lived for thirty years in. Fairfax County, Virginia. In 1951-52, Charlton was delegated to attend the National War College.

Charlton’s career as a writer was launched with “The White Falcon”, a story published by Houghton Mifflin in 1955 after appearing in The Saturday Evening Post as “The Awakening” and later being televised by Walt Disney. (In 1987 it would be selected for Junior Great Books.) His cover-story in Harper’s on “Merrill’s Marauders” in 1957 led to the offer of an advance by Harper & Bros. on a book on the subject. Ogburn seized the opportunity to quit the government and devote himself to writing. Several of the books that followed would testify to an addiction to birds that he had acquired at the age of eleven. In 1982, the Ogburns moved to Beaufort, South Carolina where Charlton died on 19th October 1998 after a long illness.

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Focusing on the history of the name of Ogbourne, Ogborn, Ogburn and other variants, including the early form of Ocheburne & Okebourne