Douglas William Houston (1924-2006)
Thomas J. Davis, November 2006
Douglas William Houston, who retired after 28 years at Fordham University, died on May 10, 2006, in Bronxville, NY. He was 81. A teacher and scholar dedicated to the importance of archival researches, his specialty was 20th-century diplomatic history, developed with his 1959 University of Pennsylvania PhD dissertation, "The Negotiations for a Triple Alliance between France, Austria, and Italy, 1869–70," and his service as a diplomatic historian in the U.S. Department of State. He compiled and edited documents for volumes in the Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers series, vols. 2–5, treating the years 1943–45. Focusing on Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Finland, and the Soviet Union, he worked also on documents relating to Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Italy. An early and eager contributor to what became ABC-Clio&'s Historical Abstracts series, he was co-editor of Clio Press’s 20th-century series of monographs. He published articles in the Austrian History Yearbook and French Historical Studies and reviewed frequently in Presidential Studies Quarterly, in addition to doing documentary projects on Austro-Czech relations, 1919–24, and Sino-American relations since 1942. Among his various professional services was his work as local arrangements committee co-chair for the 1968 AHA annual meeting in New York City.
A veteran of the U.S. armed forces, he served in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II and returned to service in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. In between his war service, he earned an AB degree from Syracuse University and an MA from New York University. Later he was a Fulbright scholar in Vienna, Austria, and studied at both the University of Vienna and at Oxford University in England.
He taught international relations, modern Asian (China and Japan) history, modern European history, and German history, as well as the Western civilization survey. In addition to teaching at Fordham, he held appointments at St. John’s University in Jamaica, NY, West Virginia University, the University of Tennessee, Adelphi University, and Rutgers University at Camden. Also, he lectured occasionally on U.S. history for the United States Information Agency.
Born in Buffalo, New York, on November 16, 1924, he attended local public schools and became a staunch advocate of American public schools and broad access to educational opportunity. Ever accessible and generous as a colleague, mentor, and teacher, Doug Houston gave successive generations of graduate and undergraduate students unflagging attention along with panoramic vistas of historical connections that yielded momentous changes and consequences in the modern world. He perpetually offered probing questions, often in an off-handed way. And he always had at hand a citation to the document, article, or book that revealed the telling approach or elements of an episode or event. If others knew where the proverbial bodies were buried, Doug Houston knew where the relevant document sat. His anecdotes were instructive delights, and talking with him was ever rewarding.
Houston is survived by his devoted wife, Rose Chan Houston, and his son, Alan K. Houston of Bronxville, New York.
—Thomas J. Davis
Arizona State University