Clifford W. Henderson Collection

Clifford W. Henderson (1895-1984) was an aviation promoter and showman who managed the annual National Air Races from 1928 until 1939, bringing attention to the expanding field of sport aviation. Born in Iowa, Henderson graduated from the University of Southern California in 1917 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He served in the 35th Ambulance Unit, France, during World War I, before transferring to the 101st Aero Squadron where he learned to fly. After the war, Henderson returned to California and was chairman of ground arrangements for the departure and return of the Army's Around the World Flight in 1924 from Clover Field in Santa Monica. In 1928 he became Director of Aviation of Los Angeles and served as the first manager of the Los Angeles airport system. Also in 1928 Henderson became director of the National Air Races and was responsible for interesting industry leaders in competition trophies, including the Thompson, Bendix, and Grieve Trophies. He retired from managing the National Air Races in 1939. Henderson served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, rising to the rank of colonel. He played an instrumental role in planning the Burma Hump air route, and also served as military governor of Dakar in North Africa. After the war, Henderson was suffering from illness and injuries sustained in Africa, and so went to recuperate in California where he founded Palm Desert, California. He remained active in the Palm Desert community until his death in 1984.