Many of our nation’s talented educators are also distinguished veterans. Such is certainly the case for John Ardis Cawthon, a high school history teacher from Louisiana who served in the US Army during WWII.
John was born on March 16, 1907, in south Bossier Parish, Louisiana. As a child, he was home-schooled by his mother. When he entered the fifth grade, he was enrolled in a local one-room schoolhouse in the Koran community of south Bossier Parish. After John completed the eighth grade, his family moved to Doyline in south Webster Parish, where the young man completed high school.
After his high school graduation in 1934, John enrolled at Louisiana Tech where he majored in History and English. There he earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. He earned his master’s degree from Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge in 1938.
John accepted his first position as a teacher at a high school in Cotton Valley, where he taught from 1934 to1935. He transferred to Sarepta and was employed there from 1935 to 1939, and then he taught at A.E. Phillips Laboratory School on the Louisiana Tech campus from 1939 to 1940. From 1940 to 1942, John was a professor at Northwestern State University, then known as Louisiana Normal.
When World War II erupted, John was drafted into the US Army. He was 35 years old at the time. The former high school teacher served in Europe in the Education Orientation Division. This position took him to the Biarritz American University in France. In 1974, he published an account of his experiences in the armed forces in an article entitled “A School Teacher Gets Drafted,” published in North Louisiana History.
When the war was over, John decided to pursue his doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin. After earning this advanced degree, he returned to Louisiana Tech University in 1954, where he remained until his retirement in 1972. During this time, he published many scholarly articles in North Louisiana History and wrote several books dedicated to regional history.
This talented educator and distinguished serviceman passed away on October 5, 1984. John Ardis Cawthorn, a true chalkboard champion.