LUCILE M. WRIGHT

Lucile M Wright Air MuseumJamestown’s First Lady of Aviation  

Lucile Miller Wright was a pioneer aviatrix.  She was born in Beatrice, Nebraska and grew up in Billings, Montana.  She discovered her love of flying as a young woman.  In 1922 she went on her first flight with General Billy Mitchell, who was a personal friend of her father, Henry A. Miller.  Mrs. Wright continually battled sexual discrimination in pursuit of her passion.  Aviation was a man’s endeavor, not a woman’s.  She bought her flight time but male instructors were unwilling to admit she was ready for her flight test, even though she received the same training as the men, including flight time and written exams.  In 1935, she overcame the obstacles and earned her pilot’s license.

Mrs. Wright became a member of the “99s,” the women pilot’s organization founded by Amelia Earhart.  She met Mrs. Earhart in 1928 and they became personal friends.  Mrs. Wright founded a local chapter of the organization in Jamestown.

Throughout her career, Mrs. Wright logged 8,000 hours of flying time in the seven planes she owned and  5,000,000 miles in commercial aircraft.  During World War II, she was the only woman courier plot in Western  New York under the Civil Air Patrol Program.  She transported machine parts and defense personnel.

 

In 1958, Mrs. Wright was named, ”Aviation Woman of the Year” by the Women’s National Aviation Association.  In 1981 she received the “Roll of Honor” award of the International Northwest Aviation Council.  She was an honorary life member of the American Association of Airport Executives and the only female member.  She supported the “Powder Puff Derbies” and  cross-country races flown by women.”

  

Mrs. Wright’s  journey to Jamestown, NY began when she met John H. Wright, founder and president of the Jamestown Telephone Corporation, at a Chamber of Commerce fly-in breakfast.  They were married, she became his pilot, and served as treasurer of his company for many years.   Older Jamestown residents may remember Lucile Wright for her battles with city government over the Jamestown Municipal Airport, now Chautauqua County Airport.  She was chairperson of the Airport commission from 1951 to 1957, the only woman serving in that capacity. Her claims that she played a prominent role in the airport’s development were hotly contested by the mayor and the city council.  The controversy was depicted in a series of political cartoons by Art Winberg in the Jamestown Sun from 1955 to 1963.  Those who remember her describe her as controversial, authoritarian, volatile, strong-willed and incapable of compromise but equipped with the ability to get things done.  Mrs. Wright cut an impressive figure with her red hair and her wrists adorned with bracelets.

The woman known as, “Western New York’s First Lady of Aviation ,” lived another life devoted to her community.  In 1953 Lucile M. Wright was named Woman of the Year by Jamestown’s  Zonta Club and was Jamestown’s first recipient of an honorary national membership for distinguished community service. She founded the Jamestown Girl’s Club and was its president for 26 years.  She was a member of the executive committee and board of the Girl’s Clubs of America.  She served on the board of the Jamestown Area Community Chest.

Lucile Miller Wright left Jamestown in 1977.  In 1986, Mrs. Wright donated $50,000 to a fund administered by the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation for the establishment  of an Air Museum.  She died June 12, 1990 in Cody Wyoming at the age of 89.  Her legacy remains alive at the Lucile M. Wright Air Museum.  Today the Museum is a youth-oriented, hands-on educational center using Aviation to motivate student’s interest in their studies.  Its mission is to use the mathematics and science of aviation to challenge students to discover and explore the world of air and space. The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation funds annual Lucile M. Wright Air Museum Scholarships to the United States Space Camp in Florida.

Lucile M. Wright would be proud of the hundreds of students whose lives have been changed thanks to the Museum.  Girl’s dreams can soar because of a pioneer aviator who helped open the cockpit door for women everywhere.

Reprinted from an article by Mary Poshka about a Chautauqua Woman in the Chautauqua Mirror of October 1996

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