Others

Katharine Wright

by Dr. Richard Stimson

in Others

Katharine Wright

Katharine Wright, sister of Orville and Wilbur Wright, inventors of the first heavier than air powered flying machine, was the only Wright sibling to graduate from college.

Interestingly, Milton Wright, the children’s father, claimed that he gave his children distinctive first names so that they had no need for middle names. In addition, Katharine’s brothers bestowed upon her the nickname of “Swes” which is an affectionate German derivative for “Little Sister.”

Although she was indeed her brothers little sister, Katharine had a short childhood, since her mother Susan Wright’s early death from the effects of tuberculosis when Katharine was but 15, threw her into the role of the lady of the house with all its duties. The loss was devastating for her, but at a suggestion by her father, Katharine found solace in the collection of many varieties of flowers which she dried and pressed into an album that she kept with her always.

Not only did Katharine have household duties, but she also inherited other responsibilities. Because her father was a Bishop and an important leader in the United Brethren Church, Katharine found that she must also be a hostess at her father’s church functions at home and when he traveled as well as being head of the Wright household.

Actually there were five Wright children in the Wright household, but the youngest ones, Orville, Wilbur and Katharine were exceptionally close as they were growing up. It has been speculated that Will, Orv, and Kate had made a pact never to marry. Since the three of them enjoyed each other’s company. However, as Katharine grew into adulthood, she drew the attention of quite a few gentleman admirers, related to the fact that she was described as “Having coal black hair, deep blue eyes and a smile that could blind you.” She was also very out-going and comfortable engaging anyone in conversation.

It was her father, Milton, who determined that Katharine should have the advantage of attending a college so that she could realize a career to depend upon. It was he who chose teaching as the ideal career opportunity for Katharine. She excelled in the language arts, but did not do well in mathematics. Katharine attended the co-educational Oberlin College in Northern Ohio, one of the first to admit women and did indeed graduate with a teaching degree. Katharine returned to her home town of Dayton, Ohio, and taught at Steele High School. Her first assignment was to teach beginning Latin.

By 1901, Katharine found that her Latin class, a required course for all the students, had poor students as well as good ones and some disruptive students. As the only sister of four older brothers, she was no stranger to boisterous behavior. That and her self-assurance and natural bossiness made her more than a match for teenage boys. She was ready for them and nipped their smartness in the bud.

Managing to bring some of the rich social life she had enjoyed in college home to Dayton with her, Katharine initiated parties, bicycle outings and camping trips from her home. When Orville and Wilbur were working on achieving actual flight for their heavier than air powered flying machine, Katharine helped them by watching over their bicycle shop, paying bills, depositing receipts and fighting with the help. {She and Charlie Taylor, the Wright’s machinist, were not fond of one another}

In 1902 when the brothers were laboring at home before taking their plans to Kitty Hawk, NC, Katharine complained “the flying machine is in the process of making now. Will spins the sewing machine around by the hour while Orv squats around marking the places to sew. There is no place in the house to live but I’ll be lonesome enough by this time next week and wish that I could have some of their racket around.”

However, Katharine found another phase added to her life when extended family members needed care-giving following illness and then again when Orville was seriously injured from a crash while flying, she took emergency leave from teaching school to tend to his needs.

When the Wrights went to Europe in 1907, Katharine’s found that her unofficial position for them at home increased. She corresponded with newspapers and magazines for them and answered queries for scientific information, screened business offers and politely handled cranks.

In 1909 Katharine requested an extended leave of absence and traveled with Orville to join Wilbur in France to help sell their flying machine to the French. Katharine provided the social chemistry the Wrights needed to make their enterprise work. She also learned to speak fluent French while she was there.

When Katharine returned home, she renewed her friendship with a gentleman by the name of Harry Haskell she had met at Oberlin College and that led to marriage. It was a marriage that was frowned upon by her brother Orville, who refused to speak to her after she had married. In spite of Orville’s painfully selfish reaction to her marriage, Katharine was extremely happy in her new life. Then when Katharine fell ill with pneumonia, and lay dying, Orville finally relented and hurried to her side just before she passed on.

File Photo: Bain News Service

Kitty Hawk Flyer Almost Lost in Flood

by Dr. Richard Stimson

in Others

The Kitty Hawk Flyer was in storage behind the bicycle shop when a horrendous flood enveloped Dayton including the Flyer, threatening its survival.

The hard rain began on Easter Sunday March 23, 1913. Most citizens were unconcerned even though Dayton had experienced flooding six times in its past because of its location at the confluence of the Miami, Stillwater and Mad Rivers.

The next day, March 24th, the rain became a deluge. The Miami River was rising rapidly at a rate of over 6-inches per hour. Milton Wright, 84, had a premonition that the rain was worse this time and could cause trouble. He wrote in his diary, “I apprehended a flood. Felt the danger of it.” His prescience would turn out to be right.

The next morning on Tuesday, the 25th, Orville and Katharine were late rising because they had just returned from a trip to Europe six days before. Unaware of the impending danger, they hurried off to keep an appointment leaving the Bishop home alone.

At 7 a.m. that morning an earthen dam collapsed upstream at Loramie Reservoir sending a wall of water towards Dayton. Factories blew warning whistles and church bells rang but most people didn’t know the reason for the noise and ignored it.

At 4 p.m. the levies protecting Dayton gave way to the roaring water. A wall of water 5-feet deep poured into Dayton. Observers say that more water poured into the city than over Niagara Falls. The water level climbed 12 to 14 feet in the downtown area.

Orville and Katharine were on high ground and safe, but they couldn’t return home. Electricity was out so there was no telephone service. They were greatly concerned about their father’s safety.

They were unaware at the time, but their next door neighbor rescued Milton by canoe and had taken him to safety at a house on Williams St. They had cause to be concerned because there was some eight feet of water at their home on Hawthorn St.

Fifteen square miles of the Dayton area now lay under 6 to 20 feet of water.

People scrambled to upper floors, rooftops and trees to escape the water. Some 15,000 people, nearly one-half of the city’s population had no shelter and were forced to endure rain and later sleet without shelter or drink. There was little food or drinking water. Swirling water, the consistency of pea soap, was contaminated from some 4,000 privies.

My father, then 12 years old, and my grandparents scrambled to their second floor.

A family at the corner of Herman and Taylor St. used a railing from a wooden bedstead as a battering ram to punch a hole through the 2nd floor ceiling into the attic. They then piled mattresses on a bed and placed a chair on top of that to climb into the attic. They then punched a hole in the roof to escape onto the roof.

All through the night the stranded people heard the firing of guns, shrieks and cries for help, some drowned, and buildings were tipping over. The floodwaters crested around midnight. The rain continued all night and it turned colder in the morning.

Orville posted signs asking for anyone who had news about Milton, to contact him. He and Katharine were relieved when they received word that he was safe.

Orville had new worries.

The terror of fire supplanted that of water. All over the city fires erupted from escaping gas. Some buildings blew up. The sky was filled with clouds of smoke. The entire business district was in danger of burning down. Orville could see buildings on fire hear his bicycle shop and believed it would all go up in flames.

The disassembled 1903 airplane was packed in crates in a shed behind the shop. Letters, diaries and their records of their glider trials, wind tunnel and propeller experiments were stored on the second floor of the bike shop.

On a shelf in a shed behind their house on Hawthorn St were stored the irreplaceable photograph negatives of their Kitty Hawk and Huffman Prairie flights, including the famous picture of the first flight.

Local government ceased to function. Into the breach stepped John H. Patterson, the president of the National Cash Register Company (NCR) and a friend of the Wrights. When he observed what was happening he converted the NCR, that was on higher ground and not flooded, to making flat bottom boats. The employees made some 275 boats at the rate of one every 15 minutes. Thousands of people were rescued by the boats from rooftops and windows.

The NCR buildings and a hastily built tent city on the surrounding ground were used to house and care for the refugees. Each person received a cot, pillow and blanket. The tents had wooden floors. They also received dry clothes, hot meals and medical attention.

Ohio Governor Cox sent National Guards Soldiers to Dayton and placed the troops under the command of Patterson who was given the rank of Colonel.

The NCR with 7,100 employees spent almost $2 million, 2/3rds of their company profit for the year, on the rescue. Patterson sought no reimbursement or tax deduction for the expenditure.

Orville wrote, “I do not suppose there has ever been a similar calamity where relief was so promptly afforded with so little waste. Dayton was very fortunate in having a man with the ability of Patterson to take this work in hand.”

The waters receded on March 30. It had been 5 days of hell and everywhere there was ruin, waste, destruction and mud. It was estimated that 371 people died and there was close to $1 million property damaged including 14,000 homes destroyed or damaged.

There was wreckage piled almost to the roofs of houses, animals were stranded on roof tops, overturned street cars, wrecked grand pianos, 1400 dead horses, waste lumber, asphalt rolled into huge bales like carpet, horrible filth and pungent smell. Men waded through mud above their knees.

The Northwest Tower of Steele High School where Katharine had been a teacher collapsed under the pressure of the water.

Orville and Katharine returned home to happily find that their home and the bike shop survived. The records had little damage. The glass plate negatives had some water damage but were not a total loss. The famous photograph of the first flight was slightly damaged on the lower left corner.

The shed behind the bike shop survived intact and the Flyer was partially protected by a layer of mud. Orville cleaned off the top of the crates and put them back in the shed.

Orville wrote, “My personal loss has been slight, somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000. Hundreds of families and merchants in the city lost practically everything they had. This is probably the greatest calamity that has ever happened to an American city, as insurance policies do not provide coverage for damage by flood.”

Milton returned home on April 4th after the house was cleaned. He recorded in his diary; “I walked home after dinner. Found Orville drying his bonds.”

The White Mansion on the Hill

by Dr. Richard Stimson

in Others

The NCR Corporation returned the Wright mansion, which is located in Oakwood, Ohio to the Wright family after 58 years of ownership.

The Wrights moved into their beautiful white pillared new house in Oakwood on April 28, 1914. It was designed for all of them, including their father, to spend the rest of their lives in comfort. For Orville, in particular, it served as a refuge from the dissonance of the outside world.

The family had lived at 7 Hawthorne St. in Dayton for forty-two years, but the neighborhood was beginning to decay so they decided it was time to move.

Orville and Wilbur originally had their eye on moving to a small lot within the city of Dayton located at the corner of Salem Avenue and Harvard Boulevard. Katharine didn’t like the location. It was too close to the center of the city. She wanted a wooded lot on a hill. The brothers grumbled for a while but acquiesced to her wishes. A United Methodist Church stands at the location today.

They found just what she wanted in Oakwood, a city adjoining Dayton to the South. Oakwood contains many affluent homes because John H. Patterson, the founder and President of the NCR Corporation (formerly, National Cash Register Co.) encouraged his executives to live there.

They purchased 17 acres with woods and a hill February 1912, near the corner of Park Drive and Harmon Road and began working together with the architectural firm of Schenck & Williams to design a house that they would all like. Construction began in August with ground preparation. The house, which cost $50,000, was completed in 1914.

Orville and Katharine purchased new furniture for the new house, leaving much of the old furniture behind in the Hawthorne Street house. They spent four days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, buying household furnishings from Berkey and Gay Furniture Co.

It may have been Katharine’s dream, but Orville took over managing the project. He paid close attention to every detail of the construction and interior decorating. Some examples are presented below.

Orville didn’t like the shade of red on the mahogany interior doors. The painters couldn’t get it right to his satisfaction so he dismissed them. He experimented with different mixes in his laboratory in downtown Dayton until he got the color he wanted, then painted the doors himself.

Orville designed an unusual chimney for the living room based on the principle of a Pitot-Tube. It took some work to get it just as he wanted it.

He also designed his own private bathroom. Katharine and her father, Milton, shared theirs.

He designed and installed a special circular shower consisting of a complex system of pipes and showerheads that would spray soothing water over his bad back to ease the pain that plagued him since his near fatal airplane crash at Fort Myer in 1908.

He used a tarp that covered the 1903 Flyer at Kitty Hawk for his shower curtain. Beneath the bathroom floor, Orville installed protective shields to prevent any leaks from staining the ceiling below.

He used rainwater for hot and cold bath water because it was mineral free. He had it piped from the roof into a cistern. The water from this cistern was then pumped through a special filter to a second cistern. The filter removed sediment, color and odor.

Wilbur took little interest in the building project. Although he did once complain that too much space was being wasted on halls. The one thing he did want for himself was his own bedroom and bathroom. He got what he wanted.

Tragically, Wilbur died of Typhoid Fever in 1912 before construction began and never lived in the house.

They named the house Hawthorn Hill, after the name of their boyhood house on Hawthorne St. and also in honor of the prickly-needled Hawthorn tree that once stood in the middle of Huffman Prairie and the Hawthorn trees on their new Oakwood property.

The style of the mansion is Georgian- Colonial. They observed such a mansion on a trip to Virginia and decided that they wanted that style for their own house.

Two identical entrances consisting of pillared facades were constructed, one for Orville and one for Wilbur. Orville’s entrance was on the south side and faced a long circular driveway that wound up the hill to the entrance. Wilbur’s, on the north side, faced a downward sloping lawn.

Inside the house, a wide and elegant reception hall joined the two entrances.

The morning sun shown into Wilbur’s room window.

The windows in the house swing open to create cross-ventilation to keep the house cool even on warm days.

Bishop Wright lived in the home until his death in 1917.

My wife and I have been in the mansion several times and it is a comfortable house. The study was his favorite room and it has been left exactly like it was at the time of his death. Except for Orville’s study and his bedroom, the house has been updated and redecorated. His favorite overstuffed easy chair that he had modified to ease his discomfort is still there. He drilled a vertical hole in each arm of the chair for placement of a homemade book-holder that could be moved from side to side.

His reading glasses are still on his stand next to the chair. He removed one of the side pieces so that he could remove the glasses easily. Efficiency was an important consideration for Orville.

He tinkered with everything in the house. He installed a commercial compressed air vacuum system that was contained within the walls similar to those used in some modern houses today. Carrie Kayler, their housekeeper, who went to work for the family when she was 14 years old, wouldn’t use it so Orville cleaned the floors himself.

He also designed the basic plumbing, heating and electrical system. The controls for the heating system were in his bedroom. Orville designed special wiring that ran through a hole in the floor in the bedroom, then through the living room floor to the furnace in the basement. He was the only one who knew how to operate the controls.

A friend of mine relates the story of his boss at NCR being dispatched to deliver a package to Orville at his home. Orville answered the door with his sleeves rolled up and dirty hands. He invited him in and proceeded to the kitchen where he had dismantled the refrigerator. The parts were scattered on the floor.

The mansion was used for family weddings. Lorin’s daughters, Ivonette and Leontine were both married there.

The mansion was also was host to many distinguished visitors. They included Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, General Hap Arnold, Charles Lindbergh, General Billy Mitchell, Admiral Richard Byrd, Henry Ford, Carl Sandburg, Charles Kettering, John H. Patterson and Edward Deeds.

When Orville died in 1948, there were a number of proposals concerning the future of the mansion. One was for the Federal Government to buy it. A proposal was submitted to Congress, but nothing came of it because Congress didn’t want to spend any more money on national memorials.

Another proposal was for the City of Oakwood to buy it. The Oakwood City Council scotched the proposal because they would have to propose a bond issue to raise the money.

The Wright family didn’t have the money to buy it either.

Finally, the co-executor of the estate, Harold Miller, who was the husband of Lorin’s daughter Ivonette, listed the house with a real-estate agent.

The first day that the “for sale” signs went up in the lawn. The NCR came forward and purchased the house for $75,000. Edward Deeds, a long time friend of Orville’s and a top executive with NCR, was instrumental in the NCR purchase. NCR used the house for important corporate visitors. It is not open to the public because the neighbors don’t want the commotion and traffic and there is insufficient parking space.

It is fortunate that the NCR purchased the house because it has been kept in pristine condition. In 1991 it was listed on the National register of Historic Places and its appraised value today is $1,096,820. The market price is believed to be much higher.

One of the first moves by the NCR was to install a modern plumbing and heating system to replace the complex system that had resulted from years of Orville’s tinkering. Orville did all of the plumbing work himself; he never allowed a plumber to do any work in Hawthorn Hill.

The return of the house to the Wright family by the NCR after 58 years of ownership occurred on August 18, 2006. The date is significant because it comes on the 135th anniversary of Orville’s birthday that occurred on the 19th.

NCR’s president and chief executive Bill Nutti handed the keys to the house to Amanda Wright Lane, great-grand niece of Wilbur and Orville and Stephen Wright, great-grandnephew. They represented the Wright Family Foundation.

The Wright Family Foundation is a nonprofit fund established through the Dayton Foundation by the late “Wick” Wright, the Wright brothers’ grandnephew. Amanda and Stephen are the foundation’s trustees.

The foundation will assume the $75,000 annual cost of operating and maintaining the property.

Hawthorn Hill is not a part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park Service and for the immediate future the policy of not opening the home for public tours will continue. This policy may change later on.

The White Mansion on the Hill

The NCR Corporation returned the Wright mansion, which is located in Oakwood, Ohio to the Wright family after 58 years of ownership.

The Wrights moved into their beautiful white pillared new house in Oakwood on April 28, 1914. It was designed for all of them, including their father, to spend the rest of their lives in comfort. For Orville, in particular, it served as a refuge from the dissonance of the outside world.

The family had lived at 7 Hawthorne St. in Dayton for forty-two years, but the neighborhood was beginning to decay so they decided it was time to move.

Orville and Wilbur originally had their eye on moving to a small lot within the city of Dayton located at the corner of Salem Avenue and Harvard Boulevard. Katharine didn’t like the location. It was too close to the center of the city. She wanted a wooded lot on a hill. The brothers grumbled for a while but acquiesced to her wishes. A United Methodist Church stands at the location today.

They found just what she wanted in Oakwood, a city adjoining Dayton to the South. Oakwood contains many affluent homes because John H. Patterson, the founder and President of the NCR Corporation (formerly, National Cash Register Co.) encouraged his executives to live there.

They purchased 17 acres with woods and a hill February 1912, near the corner of Park Drive and Harmon Road and began working together with the architectural firm of Schenck & Williams to design a house that they would all like. Construction began in August with ground preparation. The house, which cost $50,000, was completed in 1914.

Orville and Katharine purchased new furniture for the new house, leaving much of the old furniture behind in the Hawthorne Street house. They spent four days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, buying household furnishings from Berkey and Gay Furniture Co.

It may have been Katharine’s dream, but Orville took over managing the project. He paid close attention to every detail of the construction and interior decorating. Some examples are presented below.

Orville didn’t like the shade of red on the mahogany interior doors. The painters couldn’t get it right to his satisfaction so he dismissed them. He experimented with different mixes in his laboratory in downtown Dayton until he got the color he wanted, then painted the doors himself.

Orville designed an unusual chimney for the living room based on the principle of a Pitot-Tube. It took some work to get it just as he wanted it.

He also designed his own private bathroom. Katharine and her father, Milton, shared theirs.

He designed and installed a special circular shower consisting of a complex system of pipes and showerheads that would spray soothing water over his bad back to ease the pain that plagued him since his near fatal airplane crash at Fort Myer in 1908.

He used a tarp that covered the 1903 Flyer at Kitty Hawk for his shower curtain. Beneath the bathroom floor, Orville installed protective shields to prevent any leaks from staining the ceiling below.

He used rainwater for hot and cold bath water because it was mineral free. He had it piped from the roof into a cistern. The water from this cistern was then pumped through a special filter to a second cistern. The filter removed sediment, color and odor.

Wilbur took little interest in the building project. Although he did once complain that too much space was being wasted on halls. The one thing he did want for himself was his own bedroom and bathroom. He got what he wanted.

Tragically, Wilbur died of Typhoid Fever in 1912 before construction began and never lived in the house.

They named the house Hawthorn Hill, after the name of their boyhood house on Hawthorne St. and also in honor of the prickly-needled Hawthorn tree that once stood in the middle of Huffman Prairie and the Hawthorn trees on their new Oakwood property.

The style of the mansion is Georgian- Colonial. They observed such a mansion on a trip to Virginia and decided that they wanted that style for their own house.

Two identical entrances consisting of pillared facades were constructed, one for Orville and one for Wilbur. Orville’s entrance was on the south side and faced a long circular driveway that wound up the hill to the entrance. Wilbur’s, on the north side, faced a downward sloping lawn.

Inside the house, a wide and elegant reception hall joined the two entrances.

The morning sun shown into Wilbur’s room window.

The windows in the house swing open to create cross-ventilation to keep the house cool even on warm days.

Bishop Wright lived in the home until his death in 1917.

My wife and I have been in the mansion several times and it is a comfortable house. The study was his favorite room and it has been left exactly like it was at the time of his death. Except for Orville’s study and his bedroom, the house has been updated and redecorated. His favorite overstuffed easy chair that he had modified to ease his discomfort is still there. He drilled a vertical hole in each arm of the chair for placement of a homemade book-holder that could be moved from side to side.

His reading glasses are still on his stand next to the chair. He removed one of the side pieces so that he could remove the glasses easily. Efficiency was an important consideration for Orville.

He tinkered with everything in the house. He installed a commercial compressed air vacuum system that was contained within the walls similar to those used in some modern houses today. Carrie Kayler, their housekeeper, who went to work for the family when she was 14 years old, wouldn’t use it so Orville cleaned the floors himself.

He also designed the basic plumbing, heating and electrical system. The controls for the heating system were in his bedroom. Orville designed special wiring that ran through a hole in the floor in the bedroom, then through the living room floor to the furnace in the basement. He was the only one who knew how to operate the controls.

A friend of mine relates the story of his boss at NCR being dispatched to deliver a package to Orville at his home. Orville answered the door with his sleeves rolled up and dirty hands. He invited him in and proceeded to the kitchen where he had dismantled the refrigerator. The parts were scattered on the floor.

The mansion was used for family weddings. Lorin’s daughters, Ivonette and Leontine were both married there.

The mansion was also was host to many distinguished visitors. They included Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, General Hap Arnold, Charles Lindbergh, General Billy Mitchell, Admiral Richard Byrd, Henry Ford, Carl Sandburg, Charles Kettering, John H. Patterson and Edward Deeds.

When Orville died in 1948, there were a number of proposals concerning the future of the mansion. One was for the Federal Government to buy it. A proposal was submitted to Congress, but nothing came of it because Congress didn’t want to spend any more money on national memorials.

Another proposal was for the City of Oakwood to buy it. The Oakwood City Council scotched the proposal because they would have to propose a bond issue to raise the money.

The Wright family didn’t have the money to buy it either.

Finally, the co-executor of the estate, Harold Miller, who was the husband of Lorin’s daughter Ivonette, listed the house with a real-estate agent.

The first day that the “for sale” signs went up in the lawn. The NCR came forward and purchased the house for $75,000. Edward Deeds, a long time friend of Orville’s and a top executive with NCR, was instrumental in the NCR purchase. NCR used the house for important corporate visitors. It is not open to the public because the neighbors don’t want the commotion and traffic and there is insufficient parking space.

It is fortunate that the NCR purchased the house because it has been kept in pristine condition. In 1991 it was listed on the National register of Historic Places and its appraised value today is $1,096,820. The market price is believed to be much higher.

Hall of Fame Honors Foster and Ride

by Dr. Richard Stimson

in Others

The National Aviation Hall of Fame located in Dayton, Ohio enshrined five legends of Flight in their class of 2007 on July 21, 2007. They are Walter Boyne, Steve Fossett, Evelyn Johnson, Sally Ride and Frederick Smith. They join 190 legends already honored in the hall of fame. Orville and Wilbur Wright were the first to be enshrined.

Here is a brief description of each honoree:

Walter J. Boyne

Boyne, 77, joined the Air Force in 1951. He flew bombers, B-50 and B-41 in combat, later was a Nuclear Test pilot flying the B-47 and B-52. After serving in Vietnam, he retired and in 1974 joined the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. He eventually became director.

He has written more than 500 articles, 28 nonfiction books and four novels, all focusing on aviation. Several have appeared on the New York Bestseller list.

Steve Fossett

Fossett, 63, is a record setting daredevil who holds 116 records in five different sports. He has aviation records in jet and piston powered aircraft, gliders, dirigibles and balloons. He was the first to complete a solo balloon trip around the globe. Three years later he was the first person to fly a plane, the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, solo around the world without refueling.

In February 2006 he flew the longest distance, non-stop aircraft flight in the GlobalFlyer. In August 2006, Foster and co-pilot, Einar Enevoldson, set a world glider altitude record of 50,671 feet.

Evelyn Bryan Johnson

Johnson, 97, took flying lessons in 1944. Three years later she began giving flying lessons. She has trained some 60,000 pilots giving her the record for giving more Federal aviation Administration exams than any other living pilot.

She is the 20th woman in the U. S. to earn a helicopter pilot’s license.

She has been inducted into the Flight Instructor’s Hall of Fame, Women in Aviation’s International Pioneer Hall of Fame and both the Tennessee and Kentucky Hall’s of Fame.

Sally K. Ride

Ride, 56, was the first U. S. woman in space when she flew aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. She returned to space aboard the Challenger in 1984. She was scheduled for a third mission to space but it was cancelled by the Challenger accident in January 1986. She served on the board that investigated the Challenger accident.

Ride earned a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford in 1978. Dr. Ride is the author of five books, President and CEO of Sally Ride science, and an advocate for improving and emphasizing science education for young girls.

Frederick W. Smith

Smith, 62, is CEO and Chairman of FedEx Corporation. He began flying at age 15, working as a crop duster. While attending Yale University he wrote a term paper outlining his concept for a company guaranteeing delivery of time-sensitive material overnight.

After graduation he joined the marines and served two tours in Vietnam. He flew more than 200 ground support missions, earning a Silver Star, Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

In 1971 at the age of 27 he formed Federal Express based on his college term paper. It is today a $32 billion, 280,000-employee business with service in more than 220 countries and territories.

The National Aviation Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization that relies solely on membership, donations, grants, and sponsorships. It was founded in 1962 and later established by Congress.

References: Heroes and Legends, Winter/Spring 2007; Dayton Daily News, July 23, 2007.

Today there are many African-American superstars who are serving as role models. In the mid-1930s there was only one international black hero and that was Jesse Owens. Jesse burst upon the scene in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics where he won four gold metals and made a mockery of Adolf Hitler’s claim that the German Aryan people were the dominant race.

Owens’s wife, Ruth, and three daughters attended the opening ceremonies of the annual Jesse Owens Track and Field Classic at the opening of the new Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at Ohio State University.

The new track replaced the one that had circled the football field in the Ohio State football stadium known as the “horseshoe.” The horseshoe had recently been enlarged as part of a renovation project that required removal of the running track.

The original structure of the horseshoe dates back to 1922. A little known fact is that Orville Wright, along with Katharine, attended football games at Ohio State and contributed to the $1 million campaign to build the horseshoe.

The Owen’s family was involved in the important decision to move the track that Jesse had made famous.

Young Prodigy

Jesse was born in Oakville, Alabama in 1913 of poor sharecropper parents. The Owens family moved to Cleveland in 1922 to find work. It was there in Bolton Elementary school that J. C. Owens received the name Jesse. The teacher mispronounced his initials, J.C., as Jesse.

It was in gym class in junior high school, that his track story begins. Students were timed in the 60-yard dash. When Coach Charlie Riley saw the raw, yet natural talent that young Jessie had, he immediately invited him to run for the track team. Although Jessie was unable to participate in after-school practices because of work, Coach Riley offered to train him in the mornings. Jessie agreed.

By the 8th grade, Jessie was competing in junior high meets. About a year after the training began, Jessie ran the 100-yard dash in 11 seconds. Then in 1928 Jesse set his first of many innumerable records: 6 feet in the high jump and 22 feet 11¾ inches in the long jump. Both were new world marks for junior high school.

Thus began a life-long relationship between Riley and Jessie. In Jesse, Riley found the surrogate athletic son he never had. For Jesse, Riley was the first white man he ever knew. Owens later in life said, “He proved to me beyond all proof that a white man can understand and love a Negro.” “He trained me to become a man as well as an athlete.”

At Cleveland East Technical High School Jesse became a track star with a time of 9.4 seconds in the 100-yard dash, setting a world record. He won 75 of 79 races he ran in high school.

Blossoming at Ohio State

Many colleges tried to recruit Jesse. In 1933, He chose to attend Ohio State University. There, his development continued under Coach Larry Snider who also became his Olympic coach. Snyder liked to say that Jesse’s style was so smooth and light that “he never bruised the cinders.”

In 1935, Jesse had his greatest single day in track and field. At a Big Ten meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he set three world records and tied a fourth, all in a span of 70 minutes. He tied his own world record in the 100-yard dash and set new world records in the long jump, 220 and 220 hurdles.

Olympic Triumph

At the end of his sophomore year he participated in the 1936 Olympics known as the Hitler Olympics. Jesse was triumphant in the 100-meter, the 200-meter dash, and the broad jump and was a key member of the winning 400-meter relay team. The performance etched his name into history.

Hitler wasn’t pleased with his performance and never congratulated him. Unfortunately, President Franklin D. Roosevelt never did either.

Post-Olympic Setback

After the Olympics, Jesse turned professional and dropped out of school. This was not a good period in his life, as many lucrative job offers didn’t pan out. He worked a variety of jobs to support his wife and three daughters. One of the unusual things he did was race against racehorses in exhibitions and win.

He returned to Ohio State in 1940 as a student and assistant track coach but was dismissed a year later for poor grades in science and math. Unfortunately, the quality of his pre-college education was marginal. He never did graduate, but did receive an honorary doctorate from Ohio State in 1972.

Two of his three daughters also attended Ohio State. His daughter, Marlene, was the homecoming queen in 1960.

Final Triumph

Jesse became successful later in life and no longer had to scramble for lucrative opportunities. In fact his problem was just the reverse; that of deciding which offer to accept. He was a businessman and involved in many activities involving children including serving as Executive Director of the Chicago South Side Boys Club.

He was in great demand as a polished speaker. He honed his talents as a speaker while a student at Ohio State. One of the ways he made money was to speak to schools and service organizations on behalf of the school. He received $50 expense money for each speech.

In 1976, Jesse was awarded the highest honor a civilian can receive. President Gerald Ford awarded him with the Medal of Freedom. Ten years after his death his widow was presented the Congressional Gold Medal from President Bush for his humanitarian contributions to the “race for life.”

Racism was alive and well in the 1930s and Owens experienced his share of it. He overcame racism and bigotry to prove to the world that African-Americans could be successful in sports and other endeavors. He considered himself an American first and a black man second.

Jesse died on March 31, 1980 at the age of 66 in Tucson, Arizona from lung cancer.

One of the letters in the Jesse Owens’s collection came from North Carolina. A young man wrote it on March 25, 1980 as Owens was dying.

“I wish you could get better but there comes a day when you go to sleep for the last time and I will keep you in my heart the rest of my life because there probably wouldn’t be a Boys Club if you wouldn’t have been born.” Signed by “your fan, Lance C. Johnson,” Boys’ Club of Wake County, NC.

On January 15, 2003, Owen’s daughters Marlene Rankine and Gloria Owens Hemphill unveiled the Wheaties box featuring their father in a ceremony at Ohio State University. Ohio State President, Karen Holbrook, said, “I am thrilled in honoring one of our most renowned athletes of all time, somebody who has inspired people for years and has literally changed the world. The legend of Jesse Owens is known and admired everywhere.”

Where are Jesse’s Oak Trees?

Each gold medallist at the 1936 Olympics was given an oak sapling from the Black Forest as the living reminder of their achievement. Jesse received four.

Jeff Nagy of Columbus, Ohio has researched what has happened to these trees. The tree Jesse was awarded for winning the long jump was planted at his mother’s house in Cleveland, Ohio. It died.

The tree awarded for winning the 4×100-meter dash, Jessie gave to two of his teammates – Foy Draper and Frank Wykoff, both of USC. The tree died of root rot in 2002. A replacement was planted in April 2005 in Associates Park at an USC-UCLA track meet.

The tree awarded for winning the 200-meter dash still is alive near the Cleveland Rhodes High School near its football stadium. Jesse practiced and participated in track at this location because his high school didn’t have a track.

The fourth tree was awarded for winning the 100-meter dash. No one knows for sure what happened to this tree. All that is known is that Jesse intended to plant the sapling on the Ohio State University campus.

Various teammates and classmates of Jesse believe an oak tree adjacent to the south side of the main library is Jesse’s tree. Their opinion is given credibility by an urban forester that lives in the Columbus area. Steven R. Cothrel wrote in a report in 1988 that the suspect tree is 52 or 53 years old which would place its planting as 1936.

Jeff Nagy asked Owen’s daughter, Marlene Rankin, about it. She told Nagy, “The question of whether the oak tree on campus, is it the oak tree? I don’t know. I guess it just depends on if you want it to be it or not. If it can be traced back to 1936, then that’s good enough for me.”

In the picture I’m standing next to the 100-inch base diameter, 50-foot tall tree. There is no plague or marker that identifies the significance of the tree.

A number of students walked by while the picture was taken. They appeared to wonder why I was having my picture taken besides this particular tree.

References: Jesse Owens by William J. Baker, 1986; Buckeye Sports Bulletin by Darrell Dawson, May 14