- He was actually baptized John Mannen Lansdale, though his middle name was dropped when his sister was born. Why exactly is unrecorded, but he ever after said that he "gave his name to her." A note by his father in the Lansdale Family Bible says "dropped the 'Mannen' when he was 12 years old and has thereafter been known as John Lansdale Jr."
He graduated from San Jacinto High School, "Tuesday Evening, May twenty-eighth, nineteen hundred and twenty-nine, at eight o'clock, City Auditorium, Houston, Texas. No Flowers."
John Lansdale Sr. wrote the following brief bio of his early years (up to abt. 1950) in J. Harris Franklin's genealogical notebook:
"Graduated from San Jacinto High School, Houston Texas, 1829. Graduated as first distinguished graduate in Liberal Arts, from Virginia Military Institute in June, 1933. At Harvard Law School at this time writing, viz. May 5, 1934. JL." Later, he continues: "Graduated Harvard Law School June 1936. With Law firm Squire, Sanders and Dempsey, Cleveland, Ohio July 1, 1936. Lt. Col. US Army 1943. Col. US Army 1944-1945. Member Law firm of Squire, Sanders and Dempsey from Jan 1, 1946 (after being honorably dischared from the U.S. Army Dec. of 1945). JL."
He was a boxer (lightweight) at VMI. After graduation he attended Harvard Law; he applied for a Rhodes scholarship, and was a finalist, but missed the last cut.
He entered and stayed in the army reserves after VMI. At the start of the war he determined to answer if called up, and was. He wrote this in a letter to JL Sr, June 10, 1941:
"I am in the army now--and on my way to Columbus for some reason which is unknown to me--it is a completely useless thing since I have had my physical exam."
After this date, his letterhead moves from Squire Sanders to "War Department, War Department General Staff, Military Intelligence G-2, Washington." Military duty was to begin for him in June 12. He was soon assigned to be Chief of Security for the Manhattan Project, working under General Leslie Groves. During the course of his work on the Project he became a colonel. During the Alsos mission in 1945 he uncovered hundreds of tons of uranium ore stockpiled for the Nazi bomb project. After the war was awarded, among other honors, the Legion of Merit and the Order of the British Empire, Degree 4 Commander for his work. He defended his work, and his clearance of Oppenheimer, to the McCarthy inquiries, at which he was appalled. Here is a biography of him from Los Alamos National Laboratory. You can search for references to him at the Alsos digital library: alsos.wlu.edu.
After the war, his family moved from Washington, D.C. to Cleveland, Ohio, where he continued to work as an attorney for Squire, Sanders, and Dempsey. His nickname in the courtroom was "Cactus Jack," which he was kind of proud of; he could be a very aggressive opponent. He enjoyed being in the courtroom, but in civil cases rather than criminal cases. He said that he tried one murder case before the war, and determined never to do it again. He was a city Councilman for Shaker Heights, Ohio from 1949 to 1963. He applied to the SAR in 1955, and was a member of the Ohio and then Maryland chapters.
JL Jr. for a brief while kept a journal in a ledger (as his father did much more habitually) He includes many pictures of his law partners in Cleveland intermixed with pictures of his family; both were clearly very important to him. He was devoted to the groups in which he served, such as Nisi Prius. On Jan 9th, 1962, his 50th birthday he says "too fat." This didn't last long. Of Todd Simon's articles in the 1962 Plain Dealer he says "very flattering." He wasn't necessarily laconic, but he wasn't as devoted to self-examination, or at least recording it in writing and correspondence, as his father was. He stops in Sept. of 1962, when he records having broken his arm, and says "Re: Essex--I hear from Marjorie regularly & I think she is doing very well with the farms--She is showing enterprise and she is being economical."
They moved to Essex Farm, Anne Arundel Co., Maryland full time in 1972, though for many years they kept an apartment in Cleveland. He did eventually relocate to the Washington, D.C. office of Squire, Sanders.
He said to his grandson: "There were only two things I didn't like to do when I was young: one was go to bed, and the other was get up in the morning." He was the most passionate and committed man there ever was to whatever task he undertook. [2, 5, 6]