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Wall of Honor Level: Air and Space Sponsor
Mrs. Clare Loving
NEAL VERNON LOVING
His legion of friends throughout the world knew him not only as an aviation pioneer who designed, built and flew experimental aircraft, but also as a truly remarkable man who lived an exemplary life.
Born on February 4, 1916, he graduated from Cass Technical High School and then from Highland Park Junior College, in Detroit, where he studied engineering drafting. After designing, building, and flying five experimental aircraft, and becoming the first African-American double-amputee racing pilot in America, he entered Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan at age 40 to earn a degree in aeronautical engineering affirming what he had been teaching and demonstrating all his life. For the next 20 years he devoted his talents to high altitude flights and traveled the world as a civilian specialist for the Air Force.
Neal worked as a recreational director in the WPA during the Great Depression of the 1930's; as a teacher of aircraft mechanics, a production line worker at Ford Motor Company, and, of course, as a flight instructor and co-owner of Wayne School of Aeronautics. He began to design and build gliders when he was still at Cass Technical High School. Only 18 months after amputation of both legs and the repair of his shattered face, Neal opened a flying service at the old Detroit City Airport. He could recite the tail number of every aircraft he ever flew. Chided by his family, discouraged by friends and co-workers who told him there was no place in aviation for a black man with artificial legs, Neal kept right on smiling and working and planning. Perhaps his most famous aircraft is a midget racer with reverse gull wing, named Loving's Love -which is also the name of a book he wrote about his life, published by Smithsonian Press in 1994: Loving's Love: A Black American's Experience in Aviation. In 1953, he flew the tiny racer on a 4,800 mile round trip from Detroit to Kingston, Jamaica, where he met, and in 1955 married his beloved Clare Terese Barnett.
Neal Loving was honored posthumously in August 1999 for his lifetime contributions to aviation, at the famous Oshkosh Aviation Museum, during its annual air show and Loving's Love is on permanent display there. Neal's name was placed on the EPA's Memorial with these words: "A remarkable aircraft designer."
Neal Loving received more than 40 awards and honors, including the Experimental
Aircraft Association's Major Achievement Award, The Air Force's Meritorious Civilian
Service Award, and the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Organization of
Black Airline Pilots. He was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Experimental
Test Pilots, and was inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame in 1997. He was
inducted into the Wayne State University College of Engineering Hall of Fame in 2001.
Neal is remembered fondly wherever pilots gather to honor aviation's pioneers and high
achievers, and wherever kids struggling to overcome physical and cultural challenges
gather to talk about their inspirational heroes.
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