AMERICUS — What are they thinking?
What the heck is the City and County thinking of, renaming our airport? I understand that they want something named after President Jimmy Carter, but let’s not take something that has already been named for someone and change it just because we want President Jimmy Carter’s name on it. (Americus) Mayor (Barry) Blount said, “it’s a done deal and cant be undone.” Personally, I think the only thing that cant be undone is dying, especially when it’s a mistake of this magnitude!
There is rich history built into Souther Field, and naming it after President Carter would be a slap in the face of all who have served at Souther Field and more importantly Maj. Henry Souther. If there is anyone in his family left, I imagine they will be shocked and dismayed at how easily we can name something after such a fine gentleman, and then 90 years later decide to slander this same man and name it after someone else. So what if the major never served a day at Souther Field? He was still a major icon as a pioneer in Army aviation. This airport was named after Henry Souther, because he was the chief of the Aircraft Engineering Services of the Army Air Service and evidently very good at his work. This honor was printed in the New York Times 1918 edition under Army and Navy News Column.
What are the City and County getting out of it? Got to be something to throw this lame-brain idea out there. Let’s name something else after him ... he's done nothing for the history of our airport; he never served there in any capacity except as a person flying in on a jet, and he was not an icon in Aircraft Engineering Services. It will be a disgrace for this action to take place. Leave the name as it is, and let's continue to celebrate the history and the lives of those who really built Souther Field into the unique place that it is. It was built on their backs and their hard work; it has nothing to do with President Jimmy Carter’s legacy. I understand that his grandfather’s homestead used to be located there. If this piece of land was that important to the Carter family, they should have already bought it back.
In 1918, the Army constructed Souther Field because of the aviation during World War I. It was used as a primary flight-training facility. Maj. Carlyle Wash completed the first take-off and landing at Souther Field in a Standard biplane. During that same time, the Army transferred several Aero Service squadrons to Souther Field from Fort Sam Houston and Kelly Field in Texas. In November 1918, they were all combined together for form the New Flying School Detachment.
In 1941, Souther Field was reactivated during World War II to train aviation cadets of the U.S. Army Air Force and the British Royal Air Force (RAF). The last British RAF class completed its training in 1943, and in 1944, Souther Field took on another role: It became a site for German prisoners of war who worked on local farms in the area.
In April 1923, Charles Lindbergh came to Souther Field and purchased his first plane for a total of $500. After his plane was assembled, he completed his first solo flight and stayed at Souther Field for about three weeks.
In 1937, Ruby Wilson became the first female aviator to fly solo at Souther Field.
More recently, in 1978, Judge Griffin Bell presented a memorial plaque to Souther Field Airport in celebrating Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight. In 1992, a seven-foot bronze statue of Lindbergh was dedicated as well. This statue stands at Souther Field as part of the airport’s Lindbergh Monument. Lindbergh’s original Jenny biplane (which was purchased and built at Souther Field) is now on display at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Nassau County, New York. There again, all this happened at Souther Field. It states in the history books that all this happened at Souther Field!
Are we as citizens of Americus and Sumter County just going to allow our City and County leaders to throw away all this rich history? I should hope not. I hope that President Jimmy Carter will step up to the plate and refuse the naming of this historic place after himself. Yes, it’s true that Sumter County only has one person who was Governor, President of the United States and also a Nobel Peace Prize winner, so why not name something after him that would better depict his accomplishments? Or better yet, how about naming our new large courthouse after him? It’s new, state of the art, beautiful and it is definitely “Shining Sitting on a Hill!” While it’s commendable that the City and County want to name something after President Jimmy Carter, I think this is the wrong way to accomplish that, by taking something that is already named for someone away from them.
President Carter, I think you would be the bigger man if you refused this. Make them leave history alone because no matter what the City and County name our airport, it will always and only be known as Souther Field to the people of Sumter County, and it needs to remain in the rich history of Sumter County as such.
Debra Durden Sloan
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