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Johnston, J. Ambler (James Ambler), 1885-1974



  • Existence: 1885 - 1974

Biographical Note

J. Ambler Johnston (1885-1974), architectural engineer, Civil War historian, and civic benefactor, graduate from VPI in 1904 with B.S and in 1905 with an M.E. In 1906, he received another M.E. from Cornell University and became co-founder of the architectural firm of Carneal and Johnston in Richmond, Virginia.

Carneal and Johnston was responsible for many buildings on the campuses of the University of Richmond (which later awarded Johnston an honorary D.Sc.), VPI, and VMI. Johnston helped rewrite Richmond's building code, was a charter member of the Richmond Rotary Club, and helped found a Civil War Round Table (CWRT) at the State Penitentiary. During World War I, Johnston served with the Richmond Light Infantry Blues (Home Guard). He held offices in several history and science-related organizations, including the Sons of the Revolution, the Society of the Cincinnatus, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Association for the Protection of Virginia Antiquities (APVA), the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Historical Society, and the Virginia Institute for Scientific Research.

A native of Rockbridge County, Virginia, Johnston was the son of a Civil War veteran. For more than forty years, he was closely associated with Douglas Southall Freeman, noted Civil War author. Both men owned land on which a number of Civil War battles were fought and later donated these lands to the National Park Service. After Freeman's death in 1953, Johnston often presented on the life of his fellow historian. His lecture tours earned him honorary membership in CWRTs in Kansas City, Chicago, Louisville, New York City, the Confederate Historical Society of England, and Richmond. In 1965, he served as chairman of the Richmond Civil War Centennial Committee.

Throughout his life, Johnston maintained close ties with Virginia Tech. He served as president of the Alumni Association, received the 1961 Distinguished Alumni Citation and had a dormitory building named after him in 1966. He lived in Richmond until his death in 1974.

Found in 41 Collections and/or Records:

VPI Dormitory Dedication, 1966-05-16

 Item — Box 7
Scope and Content From the Collection: The J. Ambler Johnston Papers pertains to his many activities throughout his professional and personal life, especially the Civil War Round Table (CWRT) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The collection is arranged by topic into five series.Series I: Civil War Round Table, 1953-1973, includes files, notes, and recordings related to the CWRT, a national organization that promotes the study of the American Civil War through lectures, battlefield tours, and other events. This...
Dates: 1966-05-16