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THIS TOPIC STARTED when I read that Listerine tycoon Albert Bond Lambert was also known as St. Louis’s No. 1 aviation enthusiast; and hence today STL is St. Louis Lambert International Airport.
Plenty of people fly between New York’s JFK and Paris’s CDG. And here in Southern California, SNA (originally Santa Ana) is John Wayne Airport and SAN is San Diego International Airport, aka Lindbergh Field from its 1928 formation until 2003.
But what made Albert Lambert St. Louis’s No. 1 aviation enthusiast? Who is the O’Hare of Chicago’s ORD? And what about Cyril E. King of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ STT? Maybe you’ll add your favorite airport personages here as well.
Albert Lambert was the son of Jordan W. Lambert, whose pharmaceutical company’s first product was Listerine antiseptic mouthwash in 1879. Albert became president of the family business in 1896, chairman in 1923, and stepped down in 1926 when the company was acquired by another firm.
Albert was a sportsman of note. He earned a place in the golf competition at the 1900 and 1904 Summer Olympics. The U.S. team took the Silver in 1904, Lambert its only member competing in both Olympics.
In 1906, Lambert became interested in ballooning. In 1909, he met the Wright Brothers and bought his first airplane from them. Orville Wright gave him flying lessons, and in 1911 Lambert became the first St. Louis resident to hold a pilot’s license.
On October 11, 1910, at an International Air Meet held in the St. Louis area, Teddy Roosevelt made history as the first U.S. President to fly in an airplane. (He had left office at the time.) As detailed in St. Louis Magazine, this took place at Kinloch Field, “established in 1909 by the St. Louis Aero Club, led by Albert Bond Lambert. At the time, the club was the only one in the nation to have a dedicated airfield.”
In 1925, Lambert bought Kinloch Field for $68,000, spent his own money improving it until 1928, when he deeded the developed property to the city of St. Louis for the same $68,000. The airport, later named in Lambert’s honor, was one of the first municipal airports in the U.S.
During this time, Lambert was also one of the backers of a young St. Louis airmail pilot named Charles Lindbergh; thus the name of Lindbergh’s craft, The Spirit of St. Louis.
Edward “Butch” O’Hare became the U.S. Navy’s first flying ace on February 20, 1942, when he flew his Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat in a solo defense of his aircraft carrier against nine Japanese heavy bombers. His valor earned O’Hare the first Medal of Honor awarded to a naval recipient in World War II.
O’Hare died in combat on the night of November 26, 1943, when he was leading the U.S. Navy’s first-ever nighttime attack launched from an aircraft carrier.
In 1949, Chicago’s Orchard Depot Airport was renamed O’Hare International Airport in his honor. Today, a replica of O’Hare’s Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat is displayed at the west end of ORD’s Terminal 2.
Cyril E. King was born on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix. During World War II, he served in the 873rd Port Company in Hawaii. After the war, he attended American University in Washington, D.C., where he earned a degree in public administration.
In 1949, King was the first black staff member in the U.S. Senate, where he rose to chief of staff for Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey.
King returned to the U.S.V.I. in 1951, briefly serving as its acting governor following the resignation of Ralph M. Paiewonsky. King served as the U.S.V.I’s second elected governor, from 1975 until his death in 1978.
In 1984, the Harry S Truman Airport on St. Thomas was renamed Cyril E. King Airport in his honor. April 7, his birthday, is a U.S.V.I holiday. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019