Author Jean Lee Latham (April 19, 1902-June 13, 1995) was born in Buckhannon. She pursued a number of careers before beginning to write books for children and young adults. After graduating from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 1925, Latham taught English at Upshur County High School for three years. She then taught drama and education classes at the Ithaca (New York) Conservatory for one year, earning her M.A. in 1930 at nearby Cornell University.
Latham was editor-in-chief at Chicago’s Dramatic Publishing Company from 1930 to 1936, writing adult plays and radio shows, while also launching her freelance writing career. During World War II, she trained Signal Corps inspectors for the War Department, receiving a Silver Wreath for this work in 1944.
It was her children’s writing that brought acclaim. She wrote The Story of Eli Whitney in 1953. This biography was followed by others focusing on such diverse personalities as Samuel Morse, Cyrus W. Field, Sir Francis Drake, Sam Houston, and Rachel Carson. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch won the prestigious 1956 Newbery Award, and Trail Blazer of the Seas was awarded the Boys’ Clubs of America Junior Book Award in 1957. In addition to her works of children’s fiction and nonfiction, Latham also wrote juvenile plays and adapted children’s classics such as Aladdin and Jack and the Beanstalk.
During her freelance years, Latham spent much of her time in Florida.
This Article was written by Debra K. Sullivan
Last Revised on October 07, 2010
Ambler, Charles H. & Festus P. Summers. West Virginia: The Mountain State. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1958.
Evory, Ann, ed. Contemporary Authors: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide. Detroit: Gale Research, 1982.