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James S. McDonnell

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Aeronautical Engineer


Born Denver, Colorado

April 9, 1899—August 22, 1980

James Smith McDonnell graduated with honors in Physics from Princeton University and earned a M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1924.

McDonnell recognized the need for an engineer to know how to fly an airplane and so joined the Army Air Corps. He received his wings as a reserve Second Lieutenant in 1924, and embarked on a 56 year career in the American aircraft industry, rising from design engineer to Chairman of the Board of one of the world's most respected aerospace giants, the McDonnell Douglas Corporation.

Among his notable achievements were the production of the U.S. Navy's first carrier based jet fighter, the FM-1; America's first manned space craft, Mercury, and the F-4 Phantom jet, for which he was awarded the prestigious Collier Trophy in 1966. After merging his company with Douglas Aircraft, they produced the acclaimed DC-10 wide body jet, and his crowning achievement, the F-15 Eagle fighter.

In spite of the predominance of military aircraft emanating from his companies, James McDonnell was dedicated to the cause of peace in the world, but a peace founded on strength. A staunch supporter of the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a philanthropist as expressed in the McDonnell Foundation, a strong supporter of his community of St. Louis and its Washington University— these are the genuine marks of his humanitarian values.

Invested 1981 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame

From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984

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