Clarksburg Telegram, 30 May 1939


I can't believe his number is up," Mrs. Harvey Smith declares. "I confidently expect to hear from him today." That was the message of a mother's faith in a young transatlantic flyer, whom aviation officials insisted made a "crazy flight" in attempting to span the ocean in a flivver-type airplane.

Mrs. Harvey Smith, mother of the twenty-four-year-old Clarksburg pilot who is unreported on a flight to England, said at her home today that she had not abandoned hope.

"We think he may be down in some remote area of England," she said, "and we expect to hear from him today. Mr. Smith and I have checked all reports and it seems that two of the reports check with the time and route."

She was less inclined to place faith in the possibility her son had landed on the continent and gotten away again after refueling but expressed confidence in his ability "to take care of himself."


The sixty-seven-year-old father, however, was less confident. Mrs. Smith said today that he did not appear as certain as she was that they would receive good news. I just feel that his number is not up," she added. Induced to sleep, against their will but under pressure of a physician, the parents returned early this morning to their long hours of watchful waiting for some word from their son.

Atty. and Mrs. Harvey Smith spent most of last night near their radio and telephone at their home on 514 Philippi Street. Many times they hopefully lifted the receiver but always it was a call to ask news rather than to give them the word they awaited.

 Hundreds of calls were answered at the newspaper office during the afternoon and night, a true reflection of the interest of Clarksburgers in the latest and most daring of a long line of aerial maneuvers by one of its native sons.

Refusing to abandon hope for the safety of their son, Mr. and Mrs. Smith relinquished their vigil only when their physician ordered them to bed and administered sedatives to put them to sleep. They were back at the radio early this morning for the first broadcasts.


Bearing up more heroically than many friends of the flyer, the parents had the philosophic calm borne of years of following the flying exploits of their only [sic] son.

 His enthusiasm for aviation was first manifested fourteen years ago, when at the age of 10 Tommy slipped away from his parents on a vacation trip to Buffalo, N.Y., and squandered all of his $5 of spending money on a short sight-seeing flight over the city.

 From that point on his interest in aviation was not to be denied. He devoured all information he could gather on the subject and in his fifteenth year, when the family went to Florida, Tommy entered Miami High School and at the same time enrolled at the Curtis-Wright flying school. He made his first solo flight on March 16, the day before his sixteenth birthday.

After a year he returned to Clarksburg and entered Roosevelt-Wilson high school, where he was graduated. Next year he went to Greenbrier Military Academy at Lewisburg, but by 1933 he abandoned routine scholastic activities to devote his time to the more serious business of flying.

 At the age of 19 he opened a flying school at the old Patton field on Buckhannon pike and his students included a long list of local enthusiasts, two of whom have since died in plane crashes- Arch Nutter, [ Archie Ray NUTTER ] killed in a crash at the county airport on July 4th, 1937, and Ted Leader, former Roosevelt-Wilson coach, whose plane crashed in Kanawha county last April 8.

 It was during his three years as an instructor here that Tommy and A. J. "Gus" Smith, one of his students, set an unofficial altitude record for West Virginia when they climbed to 17,200 feet in an open cockpit plane. In 1937 he moved West, taking a job in Los Angeles and later starting a business of his own at Long Beach, Calif., in which he still holds an interest.


Among his other aviation ventures was the job last summer of routing a new southern trip for the Marquette Airlines from New Orleans to Cincinnati to St. Louis and another in 1935 as test pilot for the Taylor Cub factory at Bradford, Pa. It was while flying a new ship for that company that Tommy "bailed out" in a parachute on Sunday, April 14, 1935, in the mountains near Harding, about five miles north of Elkins. Several souvenirs of that plane now decorate homes in Elkins and surrounding towns.

 For that experience he was automatically admitted to membership in the exclusive Caterpillar Club. He was also made a member of the Quiet Birdman, an honorary organization, and only recently was awarded the highest certificate for flying by the Civil Aeronautics Authority, a certificate of competency with the rank of captain. He had earlier declined invitations from two major airlines to make application for a position as pilot.

 From last January to the middle of March, the Smiths visited their son in California and his sister, Mrs. Harry Hershey, of Syracuse, N.Y., remains there now awaiting word just as the parents are here. Tommy's last visit here was about a month ago during a business trip East.

During his training, young Smith came in contact with some notable flyers but cherished most his contacts with the late Wiley Post. For a week, Smith studied navigation under Post at Buffalo during the summer before the famous flyer and his famous passenger, Will Rogers, were killed in a crash in Alaska. Both Post and Dan O'Brien, who tutored Tommy in Miami, expressed confidence in his ability and predicted a bright future in aviation for him. Whether this bright career has ended in some isolated spot on the great circle route on what officials termed a "crazy flight" was the question that waited answering today.

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