Marist Professor Honored by Dutchess County Historical Society
On November 16, Colonel James M. Johnson (U.S. Army, Ret.), Ph.D. was honored recently by the Dutchess County Historical Society for his tireless efforts to preserve and promote Hudson River Valley history. Col. Johnson received the Helen Wilkinson Reynolds Award, which “recognizes the local historian who is an exemplar of the necessary and accurate search for historical truth that represents the spirit of Helen Wilkinson Reynolds.” Miss. Reynolds was a writer, genealogist, preservationist, and charter member of the society. She was eulogized in 1943 by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the most knowledgeable student of, and contributor to, Dutchess County’s history.
A leading historian of the American Revolution, Dr. Johnson is the Executive Director of the Hudson River Valley Institute (HRVI), one of the country’s leading regional history programs. He also serves as the Dr. Frank T. Bumpus Chair in Hudson River Valley History at Marist, where he has been a faculty member since 2000. As the Military Historian of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, he has been involved in a number of major projects, including the Fort Montgomery State Historic Site and Visitor Center, the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor at New Windsor Cantonment, the Henry Knox Cannon Trail, Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail, the 225th Anniversary of the American Revolution (including a Patriots’ Weekend each year from 2002-2008), Warner House and Education Center on Constitution Island, and the 5th New York Regiment.
Dr. Johnson is a scholar of American military history whose research has been published widely. He is the author of Militiamen, Rangers, and Redcoats and co-editor of America’s First River and “Key to the Northern Country”: The Hudson River Valley in the American Revolution. Dr. Johnson graduated from United States Military Academy at West Point and served for 30 years in the U.S. Army, retiring at the rank of Colonel. During his career as a military officer, Dr. Johson earned a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in History from Duke University. He received a second Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College. Dr. Johnson commanded two field artillery batteries in Germany and Korea, was a speechwriter for Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army General John A. Wickham, Jr., and taught for 15 years in West Point’s Department of History. In his second tour at West Point, he headed the military history program and taught Tactical Officers in the Eisenhower program, rising to the rank of Professor of History.
As part of his work at HRVI, Dr. Johnson oversaw seven years of “Teaching American History” seminars for classroom educators from Dutchess, Ulster, and Orange Counties, a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education. “Teaching American History” led to the establishment of a collection of lesson plans for HRVI’s Digital Library and a network of teachers and historic sites throughout the region. In addition, Dr. Johnson spearheaded HRVI’s 2009 Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial conference, which brought international presenters and attendees to Poughkeepsie.
Dr. Johnson has been designated a “Hero of the Hudson” by the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association, New York, and the Fort Montgomery Battle Site Association presented him with the Sarah Cornelia Tappen Clinton Award for his contributions to the history of the Hudson River Valley. He also received the Champion of History Award from the Lincoln Society of Peekskill in 2015.