Blacks@Dartmouth 1775 to 1960

Albert Chandler Johnston, Jr.

Composer and songwriter

alumnus image

Dartmouth College

Class of 1947

1947 Univ of New Hampshire (B.A.)

Born  1925  Boston MA

Died 2014 Ewa Beach HI

Quotes from Biographical Sources

Albert C. “Buck” Johnston Jr., formerly of Keene, died July 2, 2014, in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. He was born Dec. 19, 1925, in Boston. Mr. Johnston had been in the retail industry for many years. His position as the buyer for the Ala Moana Liberty House’s linen department brought him and his family to Hawaii in 1968, after living in the Keene community for many years. It was an industry he knew quite well since the 1950s. He was a graduate of the prestigious Mount Hermon School for boys and received his bachelor’s degree in music theory at the University of New Hampshire. He had served in the Navy for a short time during World War II.

Mr. Johnston enjoyed playing intellectual games and working on The New York Times crossword puzzle. He was also an avid cribbage player. He was an established music composer and was an excellent piano player in classical, country and western, blues and boogie-woogie styles.

During the earlier part of the last century, Mr. Johnston’s father, Dr. Albert C. Johnston was a graduate of the Rush Medical College in Chicago, but had a difficult time securing employment as a medical doctor in the industry, as he was a light-skinned African American. This was a time when racial prejudice ran extremely high and discrimination was widely practiced. In time, employment was secured and his father went on to practice medicine until the 1970s, retiring in Hawaii. However, his family had first lived passing as Caucasians in New Hampshire up until the time of World War II, when his father was commissioned as a lieutenant commander in the Navy, but was abruptly disqualified due to the discovery of his ethnic background. Their children were not aware of their ethnicity until they were in their teens.

Their true story is well documented in both the book and the film “Lost Boundaries” about how the family secret was finally revealed. The film won best screenplay at the 1949 Cannes Film Festival. Mr. Johnston’s music can be heard in the film.

His parents, Dr. Albert C. and Thyra B. Johnston, his brother Donald Johnston and his sister Ann Breen died earlier. Survivors include his brother Paul; former wife, Clara Johnston; three sons, Albert 3rd, Bruce and David; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Albert C. Johnston Jr. The Keene Sentinel, July 29, 2014,

Other source(s)

  1. The Unknown American Composer, Albert C. Johnson, Jr.
  2. Johnston Family Papers, MG#44, Historical Society of Cheshire County, Keene, NH.

Profile image source: The Gateway, Mt. Hermon School, 1943