About James Smith "Mac" McDonnell, II
James Smith "Mac" McDonnell (April 9, 1899 - August 22, 1980) was an American aviation pioneer and founder of McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, later McDonnell Douglas.
Born in Denver, Colorado, McDonnell was raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was a graduate of Princeton University, and earned a Master's of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from MIT. While attending MIT he joined the Delta Upsilon Fraternity. After graduating from MIT, he worked for the Stout Metal Airplane Division of the Ford Motor Company. Tom Towle hired MIT graduate Otto C. Koppen, John Lee, and James Smith McDonnell. He went on to Huff Daland Airplane Company.
In 1928 McDonnell left Huff Daland and set up J.S. McDonnell & Associates to designed his first aircraft with his company name with the help of two other engineers, that was to compete in a safe airplane contest sponsored by the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics that offered a $100,000 prize. His design was the Doodle Bug. After the failure of the Doodle Bug to win the contest (the Curtiss Tanager won) or any commercial orders due to the Great Depression, he dissolved his firm and worked for the Great Lakes Aircraft Company in 1931 before he was hired as an engineer for the Glenn L. Martin Company.
McDonnell resigned from Martin in 1938 and founded McDonnell Aircraft Corporation in 1939. Headquartered in St. Louis, the company quickly grew into the principal supplier of fighter aircraft to the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy, including the F-4 Phantom II fighter and the Mercury and Gemini space capsules.
In 1967, McDonnell Aircraft merged with the Douglas Aircraft Company to creat McDonnell Douglas. Later that year Douglas Aircraft Company's space and missiles division became part of a new subsidiary called McDonnell Douglas Astronautics, located in Huntington Beach, California, producing the Delta series of launch vehicles. The new combined company also developed the F-15 Eagle and F/A-18 Hornet fighters.
McDonnell founded the James S. McDonnell Foundation in 1950 to "improve the quality of life", which contributed to the generation of new knowledge through its support of research and scholarship. He served as chairman of the United Nations Association of the United States, and in 1958 his company became the first organization in the world to celebrate United Nations Day as a paid holiday. In 1980 McDonnell was awarded the NAS Award in Aeronautical Engineering from the National Academy of Sciences.
McDonnell preferred to keep his company in the family, and a number of his relatives were prominent in it. His nephew, Sanford McDonnell, became its chairman. James McDonnell was married twice. His first marriage, to Mary Elizabeth Finney, took place in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 30, 1934. They had two children, James Smith McDonnell, III, born January 28, 1936, and John Finney McDonnell, born March 18, 1938. Mary McDonnell died on July 6, 1949. He married Priscilla Brush Forney on April 1, 1956, and adopted her three children from a previous marriage.
McDonnell was, by some accounts, a believer in the occult, as shown by giving many of his aircraft occult names such as phantom, demon, goblin, banshee, and voodoo.
McDonnell Park in St. Louis County is named in honor of James Smith McDonnell, as are the McDonnell Planetarium of the Saint Louis Science Center in Forest Park, and James S. McDonnell Boulevard near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.