A Baseball Man
Thursday, July 23, 2015
A Baseball Man
In his day, Clarence Lloyd was considered one of the best baseball men in America. First as a sportswriter and then as the traveling secretary of one of the sport's most legendary teams, Lloyd saw many of the game's greatest players in an era when the game was played not for the love of money, but merely for the love of the game. This is his story and how he wound up in Dublin, Georgia.
Clarence Frederick Lloyd was born on February 4, 1887 in St. Louis, Missouri. Clarence lived on Cass Avenue with his mother, who worked in the home, and his father Henry, who was a native German bartender in a neighborhood saloon. As a boy, Clarence loved to go to watch the St. Louis Cardinals play at nearby League Park, located some twenty blocks from his home. He would often go watch the Browns, St. Louis's entry in the American League, every chance he got. After high school, Clarence took a job as a sportswriter. He got to know some of the players both on the Cardinals and the Browns including enough Hall of Famers to field two teams.
Clarence, a 30-year-old sports writer for the St. Louis Star, claimed an exemption from the draft in World War I to look after his widowed mother, who was dependent on her only child to support her. Clarence and his mother Minnie moved from Cass Avenue to Page Boulevard after the war. It was in 1913, when Clarence was introduced to Branch Rickey, the new and exciting young manager of the Browns. Rickey was fired by the Browns in 1915 and was immediately hired by the Cardinals. As general manager of the Cardinals, Rickey built the team into one of the game's premier franchises.
After nearly twenty five years with the Cards, Rickey took over the management of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey changed the face of baseball forever, not by building the Dodgers into a perennial power for more than four decades, but by taking the unthinkable risk of signing Jackie Robinson on the team and in the process, breaking baseball's color barrier in 1947. When Rickey took over the management of the cross town Cardinals in 1919, he remembered seeing Clarence around the ball park.
As his first hire as the team's new manager, Rickey, considered to be one of the game's greatest general managers of all time, lured Clarence away from his arduous duties as a beat sportswriter for a job as the team's traveling secretary. It was Lloyd's responsibility to take care of every need of the team while they were on the road. He had to coordinate train schedules, meals, hotel rooms and in the process keep both management and the players happy. While the team was at home, Lloyd was working, planning the next road trip. Clarence Lloyd at times found himself at odds with certain club officials.
Both Rickey and team President Sam Brendon and his wife, stood behind Lloyd when times were tough. But the players admired him. He got a one-half share of the winnings after the team won the World Series in 1926. Following their loss in the '28 World Series, they voted him a one-half share, the handsome sum of nearly twenty one hundred dollars.
Lloyd built a special relationship with the team's best and most unpredictable star, Dizzy Dean. One day, Dizzy, in one of his frequent moments when he was short of cash and way ahead on his salary advances, came up to Clarence and asked for a twenty dollar bill. Lloyd, under strict instructions to only allow Dizzy to have a single crisp one dollar bill a day, asked Dean why did he need twenty dollars. Dean refused to disclose the reason, but finally, and embarrassingly, admitted it was for a gift for his bride.
At the height of Dean's superstardom in 1935, team officials ordered Clarence to be Dean's personal secretary. No one, not even Dean's wife or his brother and teammate Paul, could reach Dizzy by phone without the approval of Lloyd. There was a day in Pittsburgh, when Dean was no where to be found. No one, not even Clarence knew where he was. Was he off gallivanting he was prone to do and often, or had something happened to Ole Diz. Dizzy had a personal appearance. Lloyd and Dean's business manager Bill DeWitt were worried. Finally, Lloyd told DeWitt to find a bell boy and open the door to Dean's room. When the door was opened, the boy found Dizzy, snoozing with his radio blaring away.
The Gas House Gang was famous for their antics, both on and off the field. Dean and Pepper Martin were the team clowns. They and others frequently impersonated Clarence and told rookies that they were being sent down to the minor leagues. One of Clarence's best friends on the team was Grover Cleveland Alexander, known to his close friends as "Old Pete." When Alexander died in 1951, Lloyd sent in a contribution to a memorial fund and a letter stating that Alexander was " a great athlete, a great competitor and a good friend.
"Minnie Lloyd continued to live with her son even after he went to work for the Cardinals. On February 19, 1937, Lloyd, a confirmed bachelor of fifty years, married Dorothy McBride Grossman. After Lloyd left the team after the 1937 season, the couple moved to Dublin, where Clarence took a job with Georgia Plywood Company, where he worked for twenty five years and served as the company's president.
Minnie Lloyd died at the age of ninety at the home of her son in Dublin on October 9, 1951. Lloyd was honored by the Baseball Writers Association of America when he was given a No. 1 card in 1966. Lloyd served as a sportswriter for the "St. Louis Dispatch" and the "St. Louis Times" before his association with the Cardinals.
In May of 1967, the Cardinals honored Lloyd by inviting him to an all-expense paid trip to St. Louis. The occasion was the final game at Sportsman's Park and the first game at Busch Stadium. At that time, Lloyd held a lifetime pass to all major league games, being the second oldest sportswriter in the United States.
Clarence loved to swap baseball stories. It's part of the lore of the game. It's what baseball people do. Former Courier Herald sportswriter Bush Perry fondly remembered talking about the old days of the Cardinals, a team they mutually loved. Ernest Oatts, who dubbed Lloyd as "Mr. Abernathy" hailed his friend as a great man of baseball.
Just a week before his death on October 9, 1970, Clarence Lloyd and Bush Perry talked for the last time. The subject was baseball.
And so, I salute the memory of Clarence Lloyd in the words of the late baseball commissioner Bart Giamati, "It breaks our heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filing the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops, and summer is gone."
Saturday, July 4, 2015
Montgomery County Jurist Declares Our
Philadelphia, PA, July 2, 1776 - There was a meeting going on! A revolution! Freedom, the unalienable endowment of our Creator, was the solitary topic of discussion. Over in the corner sat a young Savannah lawyer, the youngest in the congregation of the Colonial America’s most elite and erudite professionals, businessmen, and planters. George Walton and fifty-five other freedom seeking members of the Continental Congress adopted a resolution declaring the thirteen colonies of King George’s colony of America be, then and forever independent and free to enjoy the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Walton, in the in the first year of nearly thirty years of public service, would later serve a term as Judge of the Superior Court of Montgomery and Washington counties, some of whose citizens became Laurens Countians, when a portion of those counties was annexed into Laurens County in 1811.
George Walton was born in Frederick County in the colony of Virginia in the middle of the 18th Century. As an orphaned boy, George was sent by his uncle to apprentice under a local carpenter, who being somewhat of a fool and knowing nothing of the young man’s potential, denied the young man the use of a mere candle, which George yearned to have to satisfy his passion for reading and for learning all that he could. Undaunted by the ignorance of the craftsman, George, in his spare moments when he could slip away, gathered sundry pieces of wood, which he burned in lieu of the forbidden stick of wax.
When he attained the age of majority, George removed himself from his native land and set out to study the law, a subject which then attracted the most intelligent men in the colonies. Walton, still a teenager by the calendar, began to study law under Henry Young, a prominent Savannah barrister. In four years or so, Walton had become proficient in the understanding the laws of the colony and was admitted to the practice of law in the general courts of the state.
Savannah, the southernmost port city of the American colonies, was rapidly becoming a “hot bed” of those who favored liberty from the tyrannical acts of King George. In the summer of 1774, Walton allied himself with “The Liberty Boys,” a group of men who held a bitter, deep and unceasing hatred for the King of England for his numerous and continuous acts of repression he had heaped among the colonists of America. Some of the Liberty Boys gathered at Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah to discuss a plan of action to bring a halt to the oppression. A year later, on July 4, 1775, in a meeting held in Tondee’s Long Room, Walton was elected Secretary of the Provincial Congress of Georgia. By December, Walton was elevated to the position of President of the Council of Safety, which governed the colony in the absence of and contrary to any British authority in the area. Walton was the last President of the council before it became equated with being governor of the state - Archibald Bulloch would hold that distinction.
In the winter of 1776, Walton was honored by his colleagues with his election as a delegate to the Continental Congress to be held the following summer in Philadelphia. Joining Walton as delegates were: Lyman Hall, Archibald Bulloch, John Houston, John J. Zubly, and Wimberly Jones. Walton arrived near the end of June, just before the deliberation on a resolution, which would change the history of the World forever. Walton took his seat in the hall on the 1st day of July, the day in which Thomas Jefferson presented his draft of the Declaration of Independence. The following day, the delegates officially adopted a resolution sponsored by Richard Henry Lee and John Adams, which declared independence from the Crown.
Technically, but not officially nor traditionally, July 2nd, was the date of our “Declaration of Independence.” For the better part of two days, the delegates debated, discussed and edited Jefferson’s words, an act which Jefferson saw as a personal insult to his intellect and beliefs. Late in the afternoon on the fourth day of July, twelve of the thirteen colonial delegations voted to adopt Jefferson’s document - the New Yorkers did note vote because of an unavoidable technicality.
The following day, a cool day for July in Philadelphia, Jefferson and his committee began the process of printing the declaration for signing by all of the delegates, Walton being the last of the Georgia delegates to sign. Lyman Hall and Button Gwinett subscribed their names first.
George Walton remained in Congress until the fall of 1777, when he returned to Georgia to a more active role in governing the affairs of the state and protecting the citizens from the British Army. After receiving a commission as a Colonel, Walton took command of the First Regiment of the Georgia Militia. Despite the best efforts of Walton, John Laurens, Count Casimir Pulaski and others under the overall command of General Robert Howe, the city of Savannah fell into the hands
of the British just after Christmas in 1778. Col. Walton, seriously wounded but fortunately in the care of skilled British physicians, was taken south to Sunbury, where he was held as a prisoner of war until he was exchanged for a British naval officer in October of 1779.
Walton wasted very little time in returning to the rebel government. Walton traveled to the isolated areas of Georgia north of Augusta encouraging the citizens to keep up the fight. In November, he was elected Governor by the State Assembly. He served only two months. Walton found himself embroiled in a bitter battle between two factions in Georgia politics. He sided with Lachlan McIntosh, who eventually killed his opponent, Button Gwinett, Walton’s co-signer of the
Declaration of Independence, in the most celebrated duel in the history of Georgia. For his role in the affair, Walton was censured by the Georgia legislature.
Walton returned to Congress in the dark days of the Revolution in 1780. Things were not going well. The British had control of the South and defeat seemed eminent. With the aid of the French government, Washington’s forces were able to defeat Lord Cornwallis’s army at Yorktown, which inevitably led to the defeat of the British in the South. Walton left the Congress in 1783 and returned to Georgia to spend the last twenty years of his life. Walton, thought of as a highly superior lawyer, was appointed Chief Justice of the State. He remained in the judicial branch of government until 1789, when he was elected Governor of Georgia, serving only a portion of year when Georgia’s government was re-organized. In that same year, he was sent to capital city of New York as a delegate to the first Electoral College, which elected George Washington as our nation’s first president, under our current constitution that is. John Hansen was technically our country’s first president, under the previous government based on the Articles of Confederation. In 1795, Walton returned to New York to fill an unexpired term of James Jackson in the United States Senate.
Walton failed to win reelection to the Senate and returned to Augusta to engage in farming. But, Walton had one more duty of public service to perform. On January 17, 1799, he was sworn in a Judge of the Middle Circuit of Georgia, which had jurisdiction of a wide area ranging from Warren, Richmond, and Columbia counties on the northeast and Washington and Montgomery counties on the
southwest. Judge Walton remained in office until his death on February 2, 1804.
In 1848, his remains were re-interred in Augusta as a part of the monument to the
signers of our “Declaration of Independence.”
A Good Friday Indeed
As it began, the day was like any other early spring Friday in Central Georgia. It was Good Friday and Easter was only two days away. It was such a nice day that Mrs. Merle Barwick decided to take her class on a field trip around the still young Cochran airport on Airport Road, some four to five miles northeast of the center of the town of Cochran. As it unfolded, the day turned dark and violent. As it ended, this Good Friday turned out as a triumph in the face of tragedy - all to the credit of a couple of Bleckley County school teachers.
Mrs. Merle Barwick had been teaching the rudiments of reading, writing and arithmetic to her students for many years. It was said that "Miss Merle," as she was known by her students, was so enthusiastic about her teaching position that she spent most of her summer vacation preparing for the opening of the next school term. As two Army fliers would soon learn, it was the non-basic lessons which Mrs. Merle learned which saved their lives.
All of a sudden, Mrs. Barwick and her students noticed a plane in trouble. In those days, teachers and students, as well as almost every American, paid close attention to low flying airplanes in the skies. With a war starting in Europe and raging in the Pacific, nearly everyone kept their eyes upward when they heard the roar of propellers above.
Two planes were flying on a northwesterly course from Savannah, presumably to Cochran Field near Macon. Not to be confused with Cochran's Airport, Cochran Field was a air base south of Macon, which was initially used for the training of Royal British Air Force cadets
Mrs. Barwick, then a 42-year-old elementary school teacher, at first thought nothing of two American planes flying overhead. Soon, she perceived that something was wrong as one of the planes began to break from its tandem formation. Barwick heard the crashing of the United States Army twin engine bomber, as it slammed nose-first into the sandy soil. Sensing a grave situation, the Samaritan sprinted two hundred yards to the scene of the crash.
Initially, it appeared that the plane intended to land, but overshot the runway. When the pilot attempted to pull the plane up, the engines stalled and it crashed to the ground after clipping the tops of the trees along its perilous path.
As she approached the crash scene, Mrs. Barwick quickly analyzed the situation, looking for the most severely wounded among the crew. The teacher, turned medic, treated Lieutenant Lee Scott, the plane's pilot, who appeared to be the most critically injured.
Using the first aid skills she had learned in Red Cross classes, Mrs. Barwick applied pressure to the wounds of Lt. Scott, whose head had slammed into the cockpit controls crushing his skull. Barwick never left her patient until more experienced medical personnel came to his aid.
It was just about that time when Ned Smith, a salesman from Dublin, and Marshall Wining, the instructor at the aviation school at the nearby airport, came to their aid and pulled the injured men from the plane.
Teacher Barwick's assistant, Miss Mary Will Morgan, knew first aid. She too had taken classes in life saving, just in case she came upon a drowning person or an injured passenger in a car wreck. Mary Will never dreamed that she would be treating a downed airman on Bleckley County soil.
Miss Mary Will found Sergeant Fred Mangold was writhing in excruciating pain. His leg, bleeding in multiple places, suffered compound breaks in the three places. Mary Will, too, never left her patient. She put together a makeshift tourniquet. Concerned for his safety and bound to stay by Sergeant Mangold's side, Mary Will volunteered to go along for the wild ride in a speeding car bound for the base hospital at Cochran Field. Mrs. Barwick, too, volunteered to escort her patient to the hospital, more than a half hour away.
Two other crewmen were aboard. Private C.B. Wood was also taken to the base hospital with unknown, but apparently minor injuries. A fourth crewman, known only as Johnson, was positioned in the nose of the plane and only endured a few minor scratches and cuts. Luckily, the plane did not burn upon its head on collision with the ground and remained virtually intact.
The crash would be the first time that the Bleckley County State Guards (Unit 99) would be called into action during the war. The unit, under the command of Captain Harry L. Daniel, took over the duties of guarding the plane from curiosity seekers and souvenir hunters until military police officers arrived on the scene. Bystanders obeyed the guards and not a single person attempted to cross the line during the night and early morning which followed.
Flying aboard the second plane was Sergeant Mangold's brother, whose plane turned around and landed to give aid to their fellow airmen.
Lieutenant Scott and Sergeant Mangold were stabilized and sent to another hospital in Middle Georgia. Scott, from Jackson, Mississippi, was somewhat restless over the Easter weekend, but counted his blessings that he was alive, thanks to the acts of his savior, Mrs. Barwick. Mangold, from Indianapolis, Indiana, rested comfortably under the intensive care of his doctors.
Both men, through the loving hands of their saviors, survived their wounds, It is not known to this writer how they fared after they left their loving hands. What is known is that these two school teachers, turned angels through the grace of God, just happened to be at the right place at the right time.
The whole experience led to a boom in the teaching of Red Cross first aid and life saving techniques in Bleckley County schools and Middle Georgia. And, guess who became the instructor of first aid at Limestone School? You got, it, Mrs. Merle Barwick.
Merle Barwick, daughter of long time Bleckley County School Superitendent, I.A. Willis, was born in the early years of the 20th Century. While she had no children of her own, "Miss Merle" was beloved by her students during her seventeen years as principal of Union Hill School and her many years as a 7th grade teacher at Cochran Junior High School. Among her peers, Mrs. Barwick was considered a leader in the field of education in Georgia.
Merle Barwick, who molded the lives of several hundreds of school teachers and saved the lives of two Army fliers, died on August 21, 1957. She is buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Cochran beside her parents.
A Colossal Cousin
Bobby Davis, it has often been said, was the biggest baby ever born in Bowie County in the great state of Texas. Weighing fourteen pounds at birth, Bobby tipped the century mark on the scales before he started school. When he became a teenager, the scales began to strain as the needle hit the two hundred pound mark. As a grown man, Bobby grew to at least three hundred pounds. What, you may ask yourself, does this large behemoth of a man have to do with the history of Laurens County?
Well, first we will need to turn back the clock some two hundred years or so. Don't read ahead, please don't. You might spoil your surprise. Young Keen, son of John, came to Laurens County with his widowed mother when Laurens County was still in her infancy. Keen fathered sixteen children by three wives. Kindred Lawrence Keen, a son through his Young’s wife Margaret Jones, joined the Troup Volunteers, Company B of the 57th Georgia Infantry. Keen, who played the fife in the regimental band, surrendered with nearly all the Confederate forces entrenched in and around Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1863. Unlike many of his comrades, Keen escaped injury - a result which will play prominently in this story.
After the war, Keen and his wife, Mary Alice Chipley, decided to pull up their stakes and go to Texas to find a new, and hopefully better, life. Before they left, the Keens were blessed with their first daughter, Mary Alice Robena Keen. Lawrence, a mechanic by trade, landed in Navarro County and later removed himself and his family over to Erath County. Lawrence, as he was known to his family and friends, got the calling to become a Baptist minister in Palo Pinto County. He had been a deacon in Bethlehem Baptist Church in Condor in eastern Laurens County before moving to the Lone Star State.
Being a minister, Rev. Keen and his family moved around quite a bit. Keen possessed a great talent for singing and taught school kids how to sing, for a small fee of course. He died in 1906. His body lies in an old grave in the Garland Cemetery, south of Annona. Mary Keen married a Davis and they had a daughter who they lovingly named Mary Arizona Davis. Mary Davis married Ora.
I can't give you Ora's last name right now because the identity of the mysterious cousin would become instantly obvious. Mary and Ora's second child and first son was born in Bowie County, Texas fifteen days before Christmas in 1928. Bobby, always big for his age or any age for that matter, claims he got his size from his mama's side of the family. When he was six, his family moved to O'Donnell, Texas where Ora worked on farms and eventually bought and operated his own grocery store, a handy thing to own with a son like Bobby who devoured everything on his plate. By the age of thirteen, Bobby could carry a hundred pound sack of feed, fertilizer or flour under each arm to load on his daddy's customer's trucks.
When he really wanted to show off, said old friend Bob Clark, "Bobby lifted his car by its rear axles." Bobby never tried to be a Hercules. He tried his hand at boxing, but gave up after one round with a professional fighter over in Odessa. Bobby attend Texas Military Institute. In 1946, he was named the vice president of the class and lauded as the most popular and best natured member of his class, probably because he was fond of practical jokes, good natured ones, not the cruel kind.
In college, Bobby planned to major in the social sciences and physical education. In his senior year at Sul Ross, Bobby was bitten by the acting bug and graduated with a degree in drama. Shortly after graduation, Bobby was promoted to a sergeant in the 45th Oklahoma Division during the Korean War. As soon as he was discharged, and as fast he could get back home to Texas, Bobby married the love of his life, Dolphia Lee Parker, his college sweetheart. Inside his humongous human physique was the astute mind of a scholar. With a framed master's degree hanging on his wall, Bobby Davis taught grade school in Senora, Texas and in Carlsbad before he and his family moved to Glendale, California, where he planned to work on his Ph.D. degree at the University of California at Los Angeles.
While studying at UCLA, Bobby was a substitute teacher to help pay the bills. He always wanted a career in education, but he loved to act too. One day in 1956, Bobby was invited to appear on Gunsmoke, the granddaddy of all western television shows. And as they say, the rest was history.
Though his career as "Hoss Cartwright" was nearly over in the early 1970s, Blocker had become an astute businessman as the owner of Bonanza steakhouses across the country. Because of his superior people skills and intellect, which he displayed weekly on television, and his passion for politics,
Dan was often asked to run for governor, senator or congress. In one of the most tragic cases of celebrities who died all too young, Dan Blocker died after a clot formed in his body following gall bladder surgery on May 13, 1972.
He was only forty-three years old. Which brings up two philosophical questions. What would have happened if Dan Blocker's great grandfather had been killed or wounded at the Battle of Baker's Creek along with dozens of his fellow Laurens Countains? What would have happened if his grandmother never moved to Texas with her family?
The answer is quite simple. We would have never loved and admired this man whose ancestral roots run deep into Laurens County and who as "Hoss," carried the heart of a lamb and the brilliant mind of professor inside the frame of grizzly bear.
The Right Stuff
George Luck died as he lived. From an early age when he accompanied his uncle on his first ride in an airplane, George decided that he wanted to be a pilot when he grew up. This is his story. It is a story of a baby born in Dublin and raised in Wrightsville, Georgia who became one of the military’s top test pilots during the Vietnam War Era.
It was on November 5, 1934 when Ettie Lee Drake Luck and James Miles Luck became the parents of their son George, who was born in a Dublin hospital. Ettie and James lived their remainder of their lives in Wrightsville. James, a postal carrier, died in 1982 while Ettie, a daughter of George and Ellen E. Drake, died in 1983 in Dublin. Both are buried in Westview Cemetery in Wrightsville.
“My father decided to become a pilot after an uncle took him flying at a young age,” said George’s son Mike.
Following his graduation from Wrightsville High School, George, the second Johnson County boy to earn the Eagle Scout Award, received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, but left after his first year. He returned home to Georgia, where he enrolled at Georgia Tech to study aeronautical engineering. Once again, Luck transferred, this time to fill his appointment to the nation’s newest military academy, the United States Air Force Academy, in its only second year of existence.
“He was a mentor for the younger cadets,” recalled Andi Biancur, the president of
the academy’s Class of 1960.
After graduation, Lt. Luck enrolled in the Air Force’s Test Pilot school, where he was put through mentally and physically strenuous tests to design and fly new planes, faster and higher than jet aircraft had flown before.
“His job was to test new planes and new designs — pushing them to their limits, landing them safely and recording the results, Mike Luck said.
“Early in George's illustrious Air Force career he flew the B-52 out of Kincheloe AFB, including many tense missions during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He then graduated from Air Force Test Pilot School and was stationed at Edwards and Wright-Patterson Air Force Bases. As a test pilot George flew cutting edge missions in the B-52 mothership, zoom flights in the F-104 to extremely high altitudes, many varieties and alterations of the KC-135, and C-5 galaxy tests, among other things. His test pilot duties were interrupted by the war in Southeast Asia where George flew combat missions in the A-1 and A-26. George was later responsible for training bomber and tanker pilots, and instructors, while Deputy Director of Operations of Castle Air Force base in California,” his obituary writer wrote.
In 1969, Luck was deployed to South East Asia on duty with a Special Ops unit in Thailand. His wife, Carolyn, tagged along and performed missionary work there to stay close to her husband.
“In 1968-69, I served as a test pilot in the Directorate of Flight Test at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. One of my projects was to fly a B-57 test bed airplane in the development of a new IR sensor for the RF-4C. Another project was to fly and evaluate the prototype B-57G with a low light level television sensor. Both programs involved many nights on the Eglin AFB photo resolution range; and both programs were successful and were deployed to SEA.
“During the summer of 1969, I was assigned to the 609th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) (call sign: Nimrod) as a pilot to fly the Douglas A-26 Counter Invader. The two-month crew training was conducted at Hurlbert Field at Ft. Walton Beach, FL. Hurlbert was the home of Air Force Special Operations. After transition flying, formation and dive bomb, skip bomb, rocket and strafe patterns, we switched to night operations. First striking above the flares, then attacking under the flares and finally attacking in total darkness using Navy sea markers.
I arrived in Nakhom Phanom RTAFB Thailand. Our mission was to interdict the trail complex in Laos and to provide air support for the Royal Lao Forces in their fight against the Pathet Lao and NVA. After two months of night operations, the A-26s were deactivated along with the B-57s, F-100s and U-10s. Ten of the A-26s were flown to Tucson, AZ for storage; the remaining five were given to the VNAF. I led a flight of three on the ferry trip back to the bone yard. We flew the old Pan Am Clipper route: Bangkok, Clark, Anderson, Wake, Midway, Hickham, McClellan and D-M.
The crew members were then up for grabs. I took an assignment in the 56th Special Operations Wing as a flying safety officer. This assignment required me to check out in another airplane. For me, it was the Douglas A-1 Skyraider. I was attached to the 602 SOS (call sign: Firefly). During my check flight on my fifth A-1 mission, I was shot down by ground fire over the Plain of Jars in northern Laos. I got to ride the Stanley Aviations Yankee rocket extraction system. It worked like a charm. My right seater and instructor was shot and critically wounded as he parachuted down. After an hour on the Plain, we were rescued by two Air America helicopter crews. I completed the assignment flying 80 combat missions and investigating numerous accidents and incidents. When I arrived at NKP, we had 100 Skyraiders, but after one year, we had lost 40, and after two more years, the numbers dwindled down to only a handful.
My next assignment was to Test Ops at Edwards. I was the project pilot for the RC-135U. It had phase array radar antennas on the nose, tail and each wing tip. It was to be used for triangulating SAM radar sites in SEA,” wrote Luck of his career in the Vietnam War.
Luck ended his career training pilots to fly and flying a desk in the Pentagon with the office of Joint Chiefs of Staff. During the remainder of his Air Force career, Luck trained pilots and served at the Pentagon twice — once with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
After a quarter of a century of service to the Air Force and his country, Col. Luck retired and went to work for Boeing Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kansas and Everett, Washington. Luck continued to fly for recreation and once again to serve his country as a pilot with United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Air Division.
Hailed by his peers, George Luck was chosen as the Washington Pilot’s Association Pilot of the year 1996. Just after his 80th birthday last year, Luck was inducted into the United Flying Octogenarians, a group of active pilots over the age of 80. In 2011, he was given a Wright Brothers “Master Pilot“ award from the Federal Aviation Administration for 50 years of “outstanding contributions that further the cause of aviation safety.”
“George was one of the legends in our community, and perhaps one of the legends in the aviation community at large,” said Steve Dame, a fellow pilot. “Despite being fairly senior, (Mr. Luck) had a sound mind and judgment and flying skills,” Dame said. “He was just one of those guys that had the right stuff,” Dame concluded.
Known as a mentor for Boy Scouts and aspiring pilots, George Luck was killed on June 10, 2015 in a plane crash in Everett, Washington, when a Beechcraft Bonanza crashed during a flying lesson after taking off from Paine Field.