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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Donald B. Doud: A Witness to Forgery

     In 1988, forensic document examiner Donald B. Doud, after he had reviewed my book The Lindbergh Case for the Journal of Forensic Sciences, wrote me a letter expressing his admiration for the work. Over the next 17 years we exchanged hundreds of letters and emails during which time I spoke about the Lindbergh kidnapping and the JonBenet Ramsey cases at American Society of Questioned Document Examiner conferences in Milwaukee, Baltimore and Memphis. Also during this period, Don was working on a memoir featuring his life as a document examiner. I read the manuscript, made suggestions, and rewrote one of the chapters, but when Don died in 2005, it remained unpublished.

     Born in 1916 in Wisconsin, Don lived his early life in Southern California. After spending a year in a sanitarium recovering from tuberculosis, Don studied to become a professional photographer, a skill he would later use in the preparation of document examination exhibits for trial. While working as an apprentice in the office of the famous Los Angeles questioned document examiner Clark Sellers (a star witness at the Lindbergh/Hauptmann trial in 1935), Don attended classes in questioned document examination taught by John L. Harris at the University of Southern California. A few years later Don moved to New York City where he studied under Albert D. Osborn, the son of Albert S. Osborn, the man considered the father of modern forensic document examination. Both Osborns had testified at the Lindbergh/Hauptmann trial.

     In Chicago, Donald Doud continued his apprenticeship with another prominent practitioner, Herbert J. Walter. In 1951 Don moved to Milwaukee where he practiced with John F. Tyrell, another Lindbergh case handwriting witness.  When Mr. Tyrell passed away in 1955, Don took over his practices in Chicago and Milwaukee.

     During his long career, Don served as chairman of the questioned documents section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and on the board of the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners. He lectured for twenty years in law professor Fred Inbau's classes at Northwestern University. During his career, Don wrote dozens of articles and professional papers.

     Don worked on hundreds of little known handwriting/forgery cases and a handful of high profile forgery disputes. He became involved in the historic Alger Hiss spy case, the Clifford Irving-Howard Hughes autobiography fraud, and the Howard Hughes Mormon will case.

     Don's family, five years after his death, published his memoir, "Witness to Forgery." Available on, it is a terrific read featuring an extraordinary career in the little known but fascinating field of forensic fraud and forgery detection. I'm proud to say Don was my friend, and I recommend his memoir.    


  1. What a lovely tribute to a colleague! I am so sorry that you lost such a friend.