Lawrence Jesse Herndon was born December 25, 1880 in Carey, Ohio. His father was Jesse Lawrence Herndon of Viginia, and his mother was Laura A. Herndon of Ohio. An older brother, Frederick, was born in 1877, but died in childhood. The Herndon family operated a grocery store at 337 North Market Street in Galion, Ohio.
By 1900 he had finished high school and his father had died, so at age twenty he and his mother ran the grocery store by themselves.
In 1902 he left home to study at the Art Institute of Chicago. By his senior year he was off-setting the cost of tuition by working as an instructor at the school.
By 1908 he had completed his training and was unable to support himself as an artist in Chicago, so he moved back home and resumed his job as a grocery clerk at the family store. In 1910 he married eighteen-year-old Mary Louise Curtis and they moved to New York City to find work in the busy publishing industry. They lived at 1947 Broadway at West 66th Street, which also served as his art studio. He sold illustrations to slick magazines, such as Cosmopolitan and Everybody's. These were signed with his preferred spelling of his name,"J. Laurence Herndon."
In 1911 their son Frederick was born, and their daughter Ellen soon followed. His mother Laura sold the grocery store in Ohio and moved in with his family. They all moved to 101 Seventy-ninth Street in North Bergen, New Jersey. Their home was just two blocks from the ferryboat landing for convenient service across the Hudson River to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, so he was able to commute to his apartment art studio.
In 1918 he registered for the draft at age thirty-seven and was recorded to be of medium height and build, with blue eyes and brown hair, but he was too old for service.
From 1918 until 1938 he painted pulp magazine covers for Argosy, Blue Book, Complete Stories, Over The Top, Sea Stories, The Popular, Top-Notch, War Birds, and Western Story.
In 1934 he began to teach illustration at the New York School of Applied Design for Women at 160 Lexington Avenue, which is a fanciful four-story limestone temple that combines elements of both Modern and Greek design.
In 1935 his family moved to 2 Clinton Road in Glenn Ridge, New Jersey.
In 1943, as required during the war, he registered with the draft at the age of sixty-one, but did not serve.
In 1944 the school changed its name to The New York Phoenix School of Design. He continued to teach there until 1961.
A studio fire in the 1950s destroyed most of his paintings.
Laurence Herndon died at Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, New Jersey, at the age of 80 on November 12, 1961.
© David Saunders 2009