He was raised in the Presbyterian Church, but his Quaker roots were very influential as he had a great sense of the Quaker traditions of truth, honesty, human equality and seeing the light of God in everyone. These beliefs led him to assist others in need. He left Haverford College to enlist for World War I in the 69th Infantry Division Section 625, United States Army Ambulance Service, and with the French Army as a Private First Class. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre to mark his efforts.
After serving in World War I, in 1923 at the age of 25 Stewart Huston graduated from Lehigh University with a metallurgical engineer degree. Along with other family members, Stewart Huston started work on the floor in the family mill, the Lukens Steel Company in Coatesville. He advanced to plant metallurgist before becoming Secretary of the Board a position he held from 1928 until 1963.
His search for knowledge led him to genealogy and local history, particularly in iron and steel in Chester County. He went on to publish, in 1937, Rambles … by Dictation, Seven Scenic Drives to Historic Places in Chester County, Delaware, Lancaster and Montgomery Counties, Pennsylvania, as well as The Iron Industry of Chester County, a chapter in southern Pennsylvania: a history of the counties of Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery Philadelphia and Schuylkill, Vol. 1. Stewart also focused on his genealogical studies and tracking his Scottish, Quaker and southern family heritages.
Mr. Huston was president and a director of the Allegheny Ore & Iron Company of Oriskany, Virginia; chairman of the board and a director of Quartz Mosaic Inc. of Kennett Square; president, treasurer and a director of the Citizens Hotel Co. of Coatesville. Mr. Huston was instrumental in establishing a Coatesville Community Industrial Development Corporation in 1961 for the purpose of bringing new business into the Coatesville area. It was primarily his unflagging interest, leadership and financial support that held the organization together until, in 1969, the Central and Western Chester County Industrial Development Authority and Corporation were formed to continue and expand the industrial development operation.
Stewart Huston was an original member of the Chester County Airport Authority and was influential in the construction of the present G. O. Carlson Airport. Peter J. Short, Jr., vice chairman of the Airport Authority, stated, “He was a prime mover behind the whole beginning of the airport. And, like so many things he was involved in, he took a back seat and let so many others get the credit.”
Not only was Stewart Huston active in Chester County business, he was active with numerous community groups. He was also a director of the Atkinson Hospital in Coatesville, the Coatesville and Chester County Chambers of Commerce, director-councilor of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce, director of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, member of the executive board of the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company, member of the board of managers of Spring Garden College, the founding trustee of the Primitive Hall Foundation, a former trustee of Lincoln University, a director of the Delaware Valley Council, the Pennsylvania Sanitary Water Board, the Water Research Foundation of Wilmington, Delaware, the Water Resources Foundation of the Delaware Valley, and a past member of the board of overseers of Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massa`chusetts.
Other memberships include the Coatesville Presbyterian Church, Coatesville Country Club, Hamilton Club of Lancaster, Union League and Racquet Clubs of Philadelphia, American Field Service, Chester County Planning Commission, Delta Phi Fraternity, American and British Iron and Steel Institutes, American Society for Testing Materials, American Institute for Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers.
Mr. Huston was also a member of the Franklin Institute, the Georgia, Pennsylvania and Chester County Historical Societies, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Rotary International, Swedish Colonial Society and Preservation Society of Charleston, South Carolina. He was a member of the Clan Gregor Society of Edinburgh, Genealogy and Stewart Societies and National Trust of Scotland, American Italy Society, Lehigh University Club, Pottstown Historical Society, Stewart Society of America, American Society of Metals, American Public Relations Society, Historic Savannah Foundation, National Association of Manufacturers, Government Expenditures Committee, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chester County Art Association, and the Netherlands Society of Philadelphia.
During his lifetime, Stewart Huston preferred to give anonymously. However, this was hard for him due to his family’s local prominence. To the Coatesville Area Chamber of Commerce, of which he was past president, he was “a man who deserves the affection of all Coatesville; who has never faltered for one moment in his love for Coatesville and Chester County.”
Elliott R. Jones, president of the Coatesville Area Chamber of Commerce, said that “In a way, Stewart Huston was a loner but his influence was widespread and always he worked with unflagging zeal, many times at a risk to his health for total community improvement. The impact of his passing will be immediate and long-range in the areas of his major interests. It will be immediate because there will be one less strong and determined voice to promote vigorously day-by-day this area’s growth and improvement. It will be long-range because his physical and financial support was enduring in generous portion.”
James Stewart Huston was many things to many people. To some he was an executive of his family’s Lukens Steel Company. To others he was a serious student of history and a man concerned with the preservation of his nation’s heritage. No public claims of infallibility, Stewart Huston was just a man – in part removed from his fellow citizens by his position – who never lost sight of that crucial fact.
Stewart Huston was a well-rounded man, he was human and displayed an openness and humility with everyone he came in contact with. In associating with his many friends, he preferred not to be judged by his position but to be accepted on his worth as a man and a friend.
He also had strong attachments to Savannah, Georgia, the birthplace of his mother, Annie McGregor Stewart Huston, and home of his wife, Harriet Lawrence Huston, who was an artist and a poet. She was very active in community activities in both Coatesville and Savannah, Georgia. She was also a founding member of what is now the Poetry Society of Georgia. Between the time of his birth and his passing, James Stewart Huston experienced life to the fullest. Upon his passing, Harriet is remembered to have remarked “good to the end”.
Stewart and Harriet remain together in Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah.
Subsequently, upon the direction of his Last Will and Testament, a trust was created for his wife to use until her passing, and thereafter for charitable purposes. The Stewart Huston Charitable Trust began its activities when Mrs. Harriet Huston passed away in 1989. Active management of the Trust began in 1991 in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. Funding under his direction has allotted money specifically for Trinitarian Evangelical activities as well as for secular activities and is primarily provided to programs in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and Savannah, Georgia. When granting to Chester County organizations, an emphasis is placed on those programs directly in or serving the city of Coatesville.