Captain Garland Fulton, USN, one of the U.S. Navy's leading proponents of lighter-than-air (LTA) flight, was born in University, Mississippi on May 6, 1890. He was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1908. His roommate at the Academy was Richard E. Byrd (1888-1957), and another classmate was Donald W. Douglas, later founder of the Douglas Aircraft Company. Serving at the Academy during Fulton's career as a midshipman was Lieutenant Ernest J. King, later head of the Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer), 1933-1937, and Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet (COMINCH) during World War II. An early advocate of naval aviation, King sparked Fulton's interest in aeronautics. Fulton graduated from the Naval Academy in 1912. Following duty with the fleet, Fulton attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), studying naval architecture and, under Commander (and Dr.) Jerome C. Hunsaker, aeronautical engineering. Fulton received his master's degree in 1916. Fulton entered the Naval Construction Corps in 1915, serving in the Industrial Department at the New York Navy Yard, where, during World War I, he was in charge of mounting guns on armed merchant ships. In May 1918, Fulton asked to be assigned to aeronautical engineering duties in the Aviation Section of the Navy's Bureau of Construction and Repair. Fulton transferred to the Bureau of Aeronautics when that organization was founded in 1921. In 1922, now a lieutenant commander, Fulton was sent to Europe to assist in the negotiations for the purchase of the "Reparations Airship" to replace the German rigid airships that had been awarded to the United States by the Versailles Treaty but were destroyed by their crews before transfer to the US. As Inspector of Naval Aircraft (INA), Fulton served at the Zeppelin works (Luftschiffbau-Zeppelin) at Friedrichshafen, Germany during the construction and flight trials of the rigid airship LZ 126. Assigned the service designation ZR-3, the airship was christened the USS Los Angeles upon its delivery to the US Navy at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, NJ in 1924. Fulton resumed his service at the Bureau of Aeronautics in Washington DC after the completion of Los Angeles. As head of the Bureau's Lighter-Than-Air Design Section until his retirement, Fulton oversaw the design and construction of the USS Akron (ZRS-4) and the USS Macon (ZRS-5), and worked actively to help further the acceptance of large airships in both the Navy and in commerce. Under Fulton's guidance, expansion of the Navy's non-rigid airship (blimp) program was initiated in the years prior to the United States' entry into World War II.
Garland Fulton retired from the Navy with the rank of captain in 1940 and joined the Cramp Shipbuilding Company of Philadelphia as a director. After retirement from Cramps as vice president in charge of engineering in 1947, Fulton served on several corporate boards of directors. In later years, Fulton was a frequent unofficial consultant to the Navy and industry on LTA issues. He continued to correspond with other participants of the airship age, including Admiral Thomas G.W. "Tex" Settle, Admiral C.E. Rosendahl, Commodore George H. Mills (NASM Collection 1994-0022), Jerome C. Hunsaker (NASM Collection XXXX-0001), Karl Arnstein, and F.W. "Willy" von Meister. As the dean of American airshipmen, Fulton frequently served as a source of information to airship historians like Douglas Robinson, Richard Smith, Robin Hingham, and William Althoff. Fulton wrote extensively on LTA and aeronautical history, and planned to write a history of U.S. Naval Aviation until prevented by failing health. Garland Fulton died on October 24, 1974 -- the same day as his friend George Mills. They were buried on the same day in Arlington National Cemetery.