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Duke Lane

Colonel D. Harold Byrd, CAP

6 posts in this topic

"Colonel" D. Harold Byrd has been mentioned in several threads on this forum, both as an owner of 411 Elm St (the former Texas School Book Depository) and as a "founder or co-founder" of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP):

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in particular Alan Kent's post;

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(extensive mentions);

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In the last, I had indicated that I'd emailed some folks at CAP Headquarters (Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, Alabama) to see if I could get some information about Byrd. I wrote:

Dear Sir,

I am a "long"-ago (1960s-70s) CAP cadet; my father had been founder and commander of the Gen. Curtis E. LeMay Cadet Squadron (06054) and later Chief of Staff of the Connecticut Wing. I was also stationed at Maxwell AFB back in the late '70s and had a lot of contact with CAPHQ personnel back then (I worked officer outbound at the old CBPO). Consequently, I have always thought that I'd had a fairly clear idea of CAP history and what the organization was all about.

Lately, I have come across a couple of articles and books which have claimed that, in addition to Gil Robb Wilson and Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, one Colonel D. Harold Byrd of Texas (a relative to Admiral Byrd of South Pole fame) was either "the founder" or a "co-founder" of the Civil Air Patrol. I'd never heard this before.

I am trying to determine the veracity of this claim, as well as any other role(s) that Col. Byrd may have played with CAP, either on a local, regional or national basis. I do not know if the "Colonel" is CAP-related, or comes from his military service, or is merely one of those "honorific" Southern titles.

One of the articles that discussed Byrd also called the Civil Air Patrol "a paramilitary recruiting ground," which is totally news to me! (Byrd apparently also had connections with the John Birch Society and the Minutemen.)

The context of the claim is related to his ownership of the Dallas building which has become known as the Texas School Book Depository, from which Lee Harvey Oswald is alleged to have shot President John F. Kennedy. That relationship is considered "ominous" because Oswald had once been a member of a New Orleans squadron, as had been (supposedly) one David Ferrie who likewise has been alleged to have a role in Kennedy's assassination.

(The story I seem to remember hearing from the Louisiana Wing(?) historian some years ago about that is that "nobody wants to discuss" Oswald or Ferrie, and that all records of their associations with CAP were apparently destroyed out of embarassment for what they'd been accused of. I don't remember if Senior Member records were kept at Maxwell - or before that at Ellsworth, if memory serves - so don't know if the same disposition applied there. It may even have been someone at National who told me that the records were gone; it's been some years ago that I'd asked!)

Any information you can provide on Colonel Byrd is greatly appreciated, and any other comments you may have are welcome! Thanks in advance for taking the time to respond to this probably rather strange and unusual request!

Sincerely,

(etc)

Today I received a call from Colonel Len Blascovich, the CAP National Historian, in response to the above (and some additional comments from him on 12/14, shown below in red). Col. Blascovich's perspective on this topic is unique in that he has been a member of CAP since 1952, and had occasion to meet the "colorful" Byrd, who, he noted, was often known as "Dry-Hole Byrd" for his "wildcat" oil explorations. If "the Colonel" (actually, he had attained the rank of Brigadier General, and those who knew him called him "General," not "Colonel") did nothing else, he amassed quite a bit of money and political influence in his life.

This is a synopsis of his role with the Civil Air Patrol, as related to me by Col. Blascovich, along with a little history of the CAP itself:

The idea of a "civilian air patrol" was conceived by Gil Robb Wilson, aviation editor of the New York Herald Tribune, in 1938. He proposed using civilian aircraft to aid in the impending war effort. The initial plan was approved by General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold and the Civil Aeronautics Authority. Later, Thomas Beck, chairman of the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, supported by Guy Gannett, the owner of a Maine newspaper chain, approached President Franklin Roosevelt with an outline that would eventually lead to the formation of the nation's civilian air power.

The CAP was established on December 1, 1941, less than a week before Pearl Harbor, under the Office of Civil Defense, headed by former New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. Gil Robb Wilson was appointed as the first executive officer of the CAP; its first national commander was Major General John F. Curry, USAAC. It is Wilson and LaGuardia who are considered the "founders" of the Civil Air Patrol. In April of 1943, it was transferred to the War Department, and subsequently assigned to the Commanding General of the US Army Air Force (AAF) and designated as a branch of AAF Technical Services. In 1945, it was established as the official auxiliary of the AAF and in 1946, President Harry Truman signed Public Law 476 establishing the CAP as a non-profit benevolent organization. Public Law 557 of 1948 made it the official civilian auxiliary of the new United States Air Force.

Among the first orders of business of the newly-formed CAP was the appointment of statewide Wing Commanders: David Harold Byrd was commander of the Texas Wing of the Civil Air Patrol from December 1, 1941 through May 25, 1948, making him one of CAP's first members. He was initially given the rank of major, and rose to the rank of colonel in 1946. He was later the Regional Coordinator (later Regional Commander) for CAP's Southwest Region (comprised of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona) and in 1949 became the Vice Chairman of the National CAP Board under General Carl A. "Tooey" Spaatz, the retired first Chief of Staff of the Air Force, who was then CAP's National Chairman. Byrd later succeeded Spaatz as Chairman.

To the extent that Byrd was one of the first commanding officers of the CAP, he can be loosely considered a "founder or co-founder" of that organization (a "charter member" may be more accurate). In addition, following WWII, when there was talk of disbanding the CAP, Byrd's political influence was instrumental in the organization's incorporation under Public Law 476, and he was one of the Wing Commanders - who comprised the national board of the CAP - who were the signatories to that law. Technically, that makes him one of the incorporators of CAP, but again, not one of its "founders or co-founders." (That distinction belongs to Gil Robb Wilson and Fiorello LaGuardia alone.)

Byrd was promoted to brigadier general retroactively in 1970 for his services as National Chairman from April 28, 1959 to April 27, 1960. During his tenure as chairman, he was instrumental in moving the headquarters of the CAP from Washington DC to Ellington Air Force Base outside San Antonio, Texas, in August 1959 closer to his home (it was subsequently moved to Maxwell AFB, Alabama in June 1967, where it remains today).

General Byrd remained active with the Civil Air Patrol until the early 1970s when Alzheimer's Disease began affecting his life. He was a longtime supporter of the University of Texas Longhorn Band (which correctly recognizes his general's rank), and was photographed at a UT football game in 1973 with former President Lyndon Baines Johnson. General Byrd died in 1986 at age 86.

Following the Kennedy assassination, TSBD owner General Byrd apparently had the so-called "sniper's nest" window removed from the building and replaced with a replica, but may have actually had the wrong window removed. You can read more about this on the Dallas Observer website. (Thanks to Gary Mack for this amended reference!)

This clearly is but a small part of the biography of General Byrd, who has been described as "one of the wealthiest men in Dallas." It nevertheless dispels the notion that he "co-founded" the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force, and not only provides the correct information, but also his correct rank as well.

Colonel Blascovich may expand upon these personal observations in writing (and perhaps correct a few, as my notes were pretty sketchy ... tho' I started on this immediately after his call, I may have overlooked something or gotten it wrong), in which case I'll post his changes and/or expansions here later in the thread (which he did, and I have!).

Edited by Duke Lane

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Duke, I wonder if this source can say who the Dallas Boneheads were? Ive theorised that it is a reference to the 'skull and bones' who has referrred themselves like this, Boneheads, bonesmen etc.

This photo is from a 1948 article about Byrd and the Dallas Boneheads flying down to a number of Mexican locations for 'fun'.(Byrd at rear and inset)

Edited by John Dolva

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In case it hasn't been mentioned before, Byrd was instrumental in the formation of the Dallas Naval Air Station in 1941 which included the Navy Pilot Training Center.

Something else that may be of interest is that in October of 1962, Byrd and James Ling created a multi million dollar personal holding company called Alpha-Omega Corp. The major holding of which is securities of Ling-Temco-Vought, employers of Malcolm Wallace.

Sorry if this has already been mentioned.

FWIW.

James

Edited by James Richards

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Duke, I wonder if this source can say who the Dallas Boneheads were? Ive theorised that it is a reference to the 'skull and bones' who has referrred themselves like this, Boneheads, bonesmen etc.

This photo is from a 1948 article about Byrd and the Dallas Boneheads flying down to a number of Mexican locations for 'fun'.(Byrd at rear and inset)

Gary has kindly put me right on this one. Thank you Gary, saves time.

"Well John, you're off the hook since you're not from here. The Bonehead Club of Dallas is a local civc group of practical jokers. They've been around since 1919 doing silly things and helping charities amd public organizations. Loud tie contests were a regular event. They open their meetings by adjourning. I've seen some of the local news film of their publicity stunts from the 50's. This site has some information about the group: http://tinyurl.com/cb66q and this one does too: http://tinyurl.com/7jbox "

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Since you brought up the subject of the Band!

Honorary and Memorial Scholarships

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The Carl T. Widen Memorial Scholarship

Carl Widen was a member of the original Longhorn Band in 1900, and until his death in 1985 at the age of 101, was the oldest living graduate of The University of Texas. He was an active member of the Longhorn Alumni Band and gave generously to the scholarship fund. He was a founding member of the Austin Symphony, the Founders Lions Club of Austin, and a former school board president. Mr. Widen worked at all times to advance both music and education programs in the community. The Alumni Band is proud to keep his name at the forefront of excellence, not only with the Carl T. Widen Scholarship but also with our support of the Carl T. Widen Elementary School through the Austin Partners in Education Program. Mr. Widen was the embodiment of the Longhorn Band's spirit of determination and excellence. In recognition of this, his name is immortalized by the presentation of an annual scholarship to the Longhorn Band member judged to have displayed the highest achievement in scholarship, musicianship, and leadership.

The Carl T. Widen Memorial Scholarship Award for the 2005-2006 academic year in the amount of $1,500 goes to Kimberly Shuttlesworth.

The General D. Harold Byrd Memorial Scholarship

General D. Harold Byrd was born in 1900 and died in 1986. He was an entrepreneur, civic leader, and philanthropist. A successful pioneer in Texas oil, he shared his wealth with The University of Texas and the Longhorn Band for over 50 years. He was honorary president of Longhorn Band, honorary lifetime member of the Longhorn Alumni Band and a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Texas. He is fondly remembered for his giving spirit and loyalty to The University and the band he loved. The Alumni Band feels that the current members of the Longhorn Band can best select the recipient of the Byrd scholarship. The members of Longhorn Band have chosen a fellow member who demonstrates these same qualities of spirit and loyalty to both The University of Texas and the Longhorn Band.

The General D. Harold Byrd Memorial Scholarship Award for the 2005-2006 academic year in the amount of $1,500 goes to Jenny Hebert.

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Based on this, it would be a safe assumption that they (Byrd & Widen) knew one another.

Then there was: The Texas-Swedish Cultural Foundation:

The Foundation has been in the vanguard of the effort to preserve the Swedish heritage in Texas since 1951. It was founded by Mr. Gunnar Dryselius, the first Swedish Consul in Houston and father of the present Consul. Other founders were Carl T. Widén and Col. S. N. Ekdahl.

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Carl T. Widen was of Swedish descent, and a such was a co-founder as well as strong supporter of the Texas-Swedish society.

Colonel S. N. Ekdahl, also a co-founder with Widen, was President of the Texas-Swedish Culturan Foundation throughout much of the 1960's.

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Since you brought up the subject of the Band!

Honorary and Memorial Scholarships

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Carl T. Widen Memorial Scholarship

Carl Widen was a member of the original Longhorn Band in 1900, and until his death in 1985 at the age of 101, was the oldest living graduate of The University of Texas. He was an active member of the Longhorn Alumni Band and gave generously to the scholarship fund. He was a founding member of the Austin Symphony, the Founders Lions Club of Austin, and a former school board president. Mr. Widen worked at all times to advance both music and education programs in the community. The Alumni Band is proud to keep his name at the forefront of excellence, not only with the Carl T. Widen Scholarship but also with our support of the Carl T. Widen Elementary School through the Austin Partners in Education Program. Mr. Widen was the embodiment of the Longhorn Band's spirit of determination and excellence. In recognition of this, his name is immortalized by the presentation of an annual scholarship to the Longhorn Band member judged to have displayed the highest achievement in scholarship, musicianship, and leadership.

The Carl T. Widen Memorial Scholarship Award for the 2005-2006 academic year in the amount of $1,500 goes to Kimberly Shuttlesworth.

The General D. Harold Byrd Memorial Scholarship

General D. Harold Byrd was born in 1900 and died in 1986. He was an entrepreneur, civic leader, and philanthropist. A successful pioneer in Texas oil, he shared his wealth with The University of Texas and the Longhorn Band for over 50 years. He was honorary president of Longhorn Band, honorary lifetime member of the Longhorn Alumni Band and a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Texas. He is fondly remembered for his giving spirit and loyalty to The University and the band he loved. The Alumni Band feels that the current members of the Longhorn Band can best select the recipient of the Byrd scholarship. The members of Longhorn Band have chosen a fellow member who demonstrates these same qualities of spirit and loyalty to both The University of Texas and the Longhorn Band.

The General D. Harold Byrd Memorial Scholarship Award for the 2005-2006 academic year in the amount of $1,500 goes to Jenny Hebert.

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Based on this, it would be a safe assumption that they (Byrd & Widen) knew one another.

Then there was: The Texas-Swedish Cultural Foundation:

The Foundation has been in the vanguard of the effort to preserve the Swedish heritage in Texas since 1951. It was founded by Mr. Gunnar Dryselius, the first Swedish Consul in Houston and father of the present Consul. Other founders were Carl T. Widén and Col. S. N. Ekdahl.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Carl T. Widen was of Swedish descent, and a such was a co-founder as well as strong supporter of the Texas-Swedish society.

Colonel S. N. Ekdahl, also a co-founder with Widen, was President of the Texas-Swedish Culturan Foundation throughout much of the 1960's.

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In Continuation:

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The National Society

Magna Charta Dames and Barons

Deceased Members: Byrd, Mrs. David Harold (Martha Caruth)

Lost Members: Sims, Mr. John W. Louisiana

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Phelps/Dunbar/Marks/Claverie & Sims

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Name: SPECIALTY BARGES, INC

Registered Agent (Appointed 9/19/1957): JOHN W. SIMS, 420 HIBERNIA BK BD, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70112

Registered Agent (Appointed 9/19/1957): LOUIS B. CLAVERIE, 420 HIBERNIA BK BD, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70112

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