June 28 1934: Jimmie Wedell
And they lay to rest Jimmy Wedell. He died as a soldier in the discharge of his duty, for he was teaching somebody how to fly. Aviation is the greatest advancement in our times and America is spending the most money on it, yet our whole government, whole army, whole navy, had to wait to see how fast they could fly till Jimmy Wedell (through his own personality and personal honesty got financial backing from generous and public-spirited Mr. Williams) made the plane. Who knows but what aviation might not be permanently set back 100 miles an hour through the loss of this fellow, with the knowledge that was buried with him. Such men should be grabbed up at once and put into our government service. He had kept one thing that was in keeping with all great aviators and that was his modest.
Beverly Hills, Calif., June 28 1934
So who was this man Jimmy Wedell, of whom Will Rogers was so moved to write? Wedell blazed into the headlines in 1926, a barnstormer who had a need for speed and a heart turned to good works. Like Wiley Post, he had one eye, but that didn’t prevent him from being one of the top racing plane designers and top racers of the romantic interwar aviation era. Together with his partner Harry Williams, he crafted the legendary Wedell Williams Specials, the stubby-winged all-engine monoplane racers that set speed records and thrilled aviation enthusiasts with their blunt, cartoonish appearance.