Roscoe's Top Matches
About Roscoe Turner
Roscoe Turner b. 29 Sep 1895, Gift, Alcorn Co., MS, m. (1) 29 Sep 1924, Carline Stovall, m. (2) 18 Dec 1946, Margaret M. Miller. Roscoe died 1970. He was a world air speed racer in 1929. The airport at Indianapolis, IN is named in his honor. Tradition says that he flew with a pet lion and registered at hotels as Roscoe and Gilmore. He was featured on the cover of Time Magazine, Oct. 29, 1934, Vol. XXIV, #18 with an article inside about him. Space here prohibits reproduction of the entire article, but quotes and a synopsis follows: He participated in "the greatest air race in aviation history" up to that time. He flew a "big Boeing", departing second of 20 planes in a race from the RAF airdrome 60 miles from London, 11,3233 miles, to Melbourne, Australia, dubbed the MacRobertson Derby. He finished third.
At business college he showed promise as an excellent clerk, but in 1917 he enlisted as a private in the ambulance service, rose to seargeant, transferred to the air service as a balloon observer, came out as a first lieutenant.
After the war he became a lion-tamer in a circus, later a barnstorming stunt pilot, wing-walker and parachute jumper. He toured the country advertising Curlee Clothing Co. of St. Louis. In Hollywood, he flew a plane of his own in "Hell's Angels" and becamne an aviation technical advisor for the cinema. In 1929 he organized the Nevada Airlines and ran it for eight months. He found that boring.
While working for Gilmore Oil Co. as an aerial advertiser, he had a lion cub that flew everywhere with him and helped get their pictures in newspapers. His uniform was a robin's egg blue tunic, faun colored whipcord pants, Sam Browne belt, black riding boots and a gold-and-crimson flying helmet. It was written in Aero Digest, "A pilot with nerve enough to wear that uniform and kick a half-grown lion in the pants is bound to come in first eventually."
He broke the east-west transcontinental record in 1930 with a record of 18 hours and 43 minutes, only to break it again the next year. In 1933 he won the Bendix Trophy with a record of 11 hours and 30 minutes from New York to Los Angeles. Won the Thompson Trophy, World's No. 1 closed-course race with 100 miles at 248 miles per hour. In 1935 he was flying a Boeing 247-D which was later hung in the main lobby of the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC. This was the plane he was flying when he went back to his hometown, Corinth, MS on Oct. 15, 1936, for the dedication of the Roscoe Turner Airfield and the plane he flew in the London-Melbourne race. The plane was later used by United Airlines as a passenger plane, before going to the museum.
He had left home about 1913, after a disagreement with his father. He went to board with his aunt Molly Bailey in Memphis where he worked as a chauffeur for Frank F. Hill, president of Union & Planters Bank. In 1915 he lived in the Hill Mansion at 1400 Union Ave. There, he got a taste of a different lifestyle to his country upbringing. In 1917 he became a mechanic at the Packard truck dealereship in Memphis.
He said that the first airplane he ever saw was flown by Katherine Stinson, a famous early aviatrix, flying at the Memphis fairgrounds. From that moment his ambition was to fly. He tried to enlist in the Army aviation section and was turned down because he did not have a college degree. After enlisting May 25, 1917 and was later accepted as a cadet in the Army Signal Corps aviation section, sent to Camp John Wise at San Antonio for training as a balloon observer and later served in France and occupied Germany.
In 1919 he entered into a deal with Harry J. Runser to put on barnstorming shows at county fairs with a surplus Jenny. He performed a stunt at Memphis called "The Crash" in which he parachuted out, while Runser flew down and zoomed through a special constructed wide door barn, destroying the plane wings and the barn. In 1922, he rebuilt the crashed Jenny and learned to fly it.
He flew Sikorsky's first US built plane, the S-29A. He retired from racing after winning the Thompson Trophy for the third time in 1939. He was awarded the A. F. Distinguished Flying Cross by Congress in 1952. In 1975, he was inducted into the National AviationHall of Fame.
They married in his Jenny sitting in a pasture where the Shiloh Ridge Golf Club was later located and flew off to Dayton, OH for an air show and aerial honeymoon.