from The Story of Richard and Frances Lees
by Jeanne Mahony
Richard was the younger brother of Early Bird Walter E. Lees and was born in Janesville, Wisconsin, March 2, 1891. His early childhood was spent in trying to keep up with his brother and sister, Walter and Jessie. He became quite a happy-go-lucky fellow, most popular with the girls. He deliberately (or so his sister says) failed his senior year in high school so he could spend another year with a certain Junior girl! He graduated in 1911 and spent the next few years following his interests in automobiles and aeroplanes. He borrowed money from his folks to enter flight training school. In July 1917 he joined the aviation section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, and served with the British Royal Air Force ferrying planes from England to France.
Following the war he spent several years with Army Air Corps experimental station at McCook Field. He was associated there with some of the more promonent early figures in aviation.
He married Rose Welbaum, November 10, 1919. In 1927 he became an inspector for the Aeronautics Branch of the Department of Commerce. He himself was holder of Civilian Pilot License #9. He tested many pilots for certification and investigated plane crashes. He had remained a reserve pilot in the Army Air Corps and in World War II he served the Western Flying Command in charge of flight instruction at advanced flying schools. Later he served with the Office of Flying Safety.
He retired from the Army Air Corps in 1957 as Lieutenant Colonel with a command pilot rating, and spent some seven years on a small ranch near Turlock, California where he had groves of walnut and pecan trees. In 1954 he retired to Riverside, California, but soon became victim to emphysema which limited his activities considerably. However, he was a member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Aero Squadron, a volunteer group devoted to disaster relief, search and rescue.
He died August 7, and is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California.
Editor's Note: My wife Jo, Walter's youngest daughter, remembers "Uncle Dick" with great fondness. Unfortunately he died before I moved to Turlock in 1963, as did his brother Walter, so I only got to know them through photos and stories.
If you have any more information on this Early Flier,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper