John Thornton Walker – part 1

The family of John Thornton Walker contributed significantly to the book I wrote about Springfield aviation at the request of Arcadia Publishing. Over the internet I became acquainted with Richard and Connie Strouse (daughter of John Thornton and Geraldine) and Bill Strouse, brother of Richard. In the course of our correspondence as the book came together, I was so impressed with the family’s help — and the life of the man (citizen of Springfield, Illinois, Springfield High graduate, class of 1931) who was personal pilot for General Mark Clark, who flew Piper L-4s and Stinson L-5s in Italy and who died coming home on leave — that I promised to write a book about him. The goal of the book is to tell others about a hometown pilot who did not come homeRichard and Connie Walker Strouse at Aeroknow Museum

Last October, Richard and Connie visited Springfield, the house where she had lived with her mom and dad, and AeroKnow Museum. They brought with them, to help me with my promised book, hundreds of photos and artifacts from before, during and after World War II they had preserved, including this brass plaque that had been erected on an obelizk at Walker Air Strip in Ft. Monroe, Virginia.  We also visited the field where the man fondly remembered as “JT” flew. It was Connie’s first visit since before the war.
RnCStr-8     Since their visit, I have not put the book together as quickly as anticipated. The volunteer support I sought and requested from more friends and visitors than I can count has not materialized, and the time required for writing the promised book has not come as frequently as hoped.
Recently Connie contacted me on Facebook asking h0w the book is coming. Rill Strouse has asked the same. I sent Bill some pictures of JT’s presence here in the museum, and I’m posting some new ones here to demonstrate how everyone who visits here with time to learn leaves knowing about John Thornton Walker. I have promised a draft of the book by Christmas as well. For Connie and Rich, for Bill and for all readers of this post, I will post regular updates about the book here and more about JT. I thank the Strouses for their patience and hope this gesture indicates, satisfactorily to them, that I am serious and determined to produce the publication.
DSC07319    In case visitors miss the display case that displays many parts of JT”s life safely under glass, this portrait is on the display shelves. A recent visitor believes it was taken in Italy, judging from the rest of the picture and the pose. When he was attending Springfield High, a fire broke out, and burned his hair. A newspaper clipping describing the fire is among many now in AKM. The model Cessna L-19/O-1 Bird Dog is similar in size and mission to the “Grasshoppers” JT flew in Italy.
Here are some of the artifacts displayed under glass. The brass plaque was first mounted on an obelisk at Walker Army Airstrip, Ft. Monroe, VA, later attached to a building on the base and is now at AeroKnow Museum. These pictures don’t come close to how incredible these materials are to see first hand.

DSC07324On top of the counter is a first attempt at a cover design for the softcover book. It shows Springfield High at the time JT attended and a picture as he might have looked dressed for non-flying duty. Under glass are a shoulder patch that was worn on his uniform and a badge confirming his membership in the National Aeronautic Association dated Jan. 15-16-17 1939, probably from a convention held in St. Louis.
DSC07325    The Springfield High School Alumni Association held a memorial service May 26, 1946 for alumni who died in service during the war . Those who gave their last full measure are listed on page 2 of the four page document along with the year they graduated.  From this (and other family documents) we know that JT graduated in 1931. A future post in the JTW series will include the names and graduation years listed in this program.

DSC07327    Taken September 15, 2013, this young lady and her dad, who were about to fly home to Pennsylvania after attending a horse show DSC07336in Springfield also visited AeroKnow Museum and learned about JTW when she noticed his picture.
DSC07338

I will try to update the story of JT and progress with the book at least weekly. There is a lot to tell. Please “follow” this page to be sure to receive future updates.

About Job Conger

I am a freelance aviation, business and tourism writer, poet, songwriter. My journalism appears regularly in Springfield Business Journal and Illinois Times. I am author of Springfield Aviation from Arcadia Publishing and available everywhere. As founder/director of AeroKnow Museum (AKM) and a volunteer with American Aviation Historical Society (AAHS), I created this blog to share news about AKM activity and aviation history.
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