Dr. Clayton D. Laurie, a historian, educator, and past historian for the United States Army and Central Intelligence Agency died on 21 February 2021 in Reston, Virginia. He was 66.
Dr. Laurie was born in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on 23 October 1954, the son of George and Donna Rae Laurie. Raised and educated in Cedar Falls, he developed an early and passionate, life-long interest in the study of military history, earning a BA degree in History/Liberal Arts, and political science at the University of Northern Iowa in 1977. From 1977 until 1984, he taught middle school American History and Government in the Council Bluffs Community School District in Council Bluffs, Iowa, serving a very diverse student population at Bloomer, Edison, and Kirn Middle Schools. While in Council Bluffs, Dr. Laurie completed a Master of Arts degree in history at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1982.
Working toward the goal of becoming a professional historian, Dr. Laurie accepted a graduate and teaching fellowship at The American University in Washington, D.C., and in 1984 moved to Aspen Hill, Maryland. He completed his Ph.D. at American University 1990. He lived in Olney, Maryland, from 1993 until moving to Northern Virginia in 1999.
In 1986, Dr. Laurie joined the U.S. Army Center of Military History at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., as a staff historian with the CMH Histories Division, beginning a federal history career that would last until retirement in 2019. During his time with the Center of Military History, Dr. Laurie published two major volumes in the U.S. Army official history series, The Role of Federal Military Forces in Domestic Disorders, 1877-1945, and Industrialists in Olive Drab: The Emergency Operation of Private Industrial Facilities During World War II. In addition, he was the author of The Propaganda Warriors: America’s Crusade against Nazi Germany published in 1996 by the University Press of Kansas. During his career, he authored numerous classified and unclassified books, monographs, and articles on various aspects of U.S. and European military and intelligence history and supervised the publication of many others. In 1995, he was awarded the Secretary of the Army’s Research and Study Fellowship, and in 2000, upon leaving the Center of Military History, he received the U.S. Army’s Commander’s Award for Outstanding Civilian Service to the Department of the Army.
In May 2000, Dr. Laurie joined the Central Intelligence Agency as an intelligence staff officer and Deputy Chief Historian at the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly, Virginia. Between 2002 and 2005, Dr. Laurie served a tour as a staff intelligence historian with the CIA History Staff, Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, before returning to the National Reconnaissance Office as the Chief Historian in fall 2005. In January 2007, Dr. Laurie left the National Reconnaissance Office to take a rotational position as Deputy Historian with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the headquarters unit for the US Intelligence Community. Here he wrote volume 2 of the History of the ODNI: The Negroponte Years, 2005-2007, and helped formulate programs and processes directed toward creating better cooperation between Intelligence Community Historical Offices and staffs. In 2008, Dr. Laurie returned to the Central Intelligence Agency History Staff where he remained until his retirement from federal service in 2019.
Although Dr. Laurie found researching and writing military and intelligence history a near perfect occupation, his first love always remained teaching. Following his early career in public education, and two years of teaching European History between 1987 and 1989 at the American University during his graduate studies, Dr. Laurie became a part-time adjunct associate professor with the Department of History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in fall 1991. For the next 23 years, he taught military and intelligence history courses at UMBC, some of the largest and most popular lecture courses at the university. Dr. Laurie taught fulltime in addition to his government duties and routinely drew over 100 students for each section of his courses on the history of warfare, World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, the history of American Intelligence, and Western Civilization. Students consistently commented that Dr. Laurie was a very approachable professor, and a charismatic and dynamic lecturer, with a sense of humor they found unique and refreshing. In spite of the gruesome nature of the course material, students consistently referred to Dr. Laurie’s classes as the best they had taken during their undergraduate careers, always interesting and fun. Course evaluations consistently rated him as one of the best instructors at the university. His enthusiasm and passion for his subjects convinced many of his students to become history majors or minors, and lifelong students of history. He was often gratified to have students contact him in later years concerning their own history careers and continuing interest in the discipline.
In addition to his government and academic careers, Dr. Laurie was a member of the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, The Society for Military History, The Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations, The Historical Society, and the Society for Historians in the Federal Government. Additionally, Dr. Laurie was often sought as a guest speaker at conferences and made numerous appearances as a panelist on C-SPAN. Besides history, his hobbies included collecting militaria, traveling, camping with his wife and sons, Border Collies, sailing, gardening, and cooking. An Eagle Scout in his youth, he participated in the Boy Scouts as a Cub Master and Den Leader and Boy Scout leader with his sons, his eldest son also obtaining the Eagle rank.
Dr. Laurie is survived by his wife of 21 years, Sarah Jane Laurie of Potomac Falls, Virginia, two sons and daughters-in-law from a previous marriage, Ian and Kelly Laurie of Arlington, Virginia and Tyler and Elizabeth Laurie of Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, two grandchildren Theodore and Sloane, his father, George Laurie of Denton, Texas, his sister and brother-in-law Kelsey and Randy Brooks of Alvord, Texas.
A memorial service will be announced at a later date. In-lieu of flowers, donation can be made to the Blue Ridge Border Collie Rescue (brbcr.org).
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