E. Hamilton Lee
Cayuga, North Dakota
from Ellington, 1918
Among those who made the Air Service possible, are--
E. Hamilton Lee--Started the acrobatic stage at Ellington Field. Does tail slides with training ships below 500 feet without mishap. Has taught flying for United States army since war started. Hasn't had an accident..
from Ellington, 1918
Courtesy of Gary D. White

E. Hamilton Lee
E. Hamilton Lee
E. Hamilton Lee
Courtesy of United Air Lines
Washington Air Mail Terminal
Official Air Mail Uniform
December 1919
San Diego Reunion
EB CHIRP, 1976


They called him "the flyingest man in the world" when he retired in 1949. E. Hamilton Lee, the most senior captain at United Air Lines when he left the company after a 36-year aviation career, had amassed an astounding record of 4.4 million air miles flow in 27,812 hours. An instructor in the flying division of the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War I, Lee joined the U.S. Air Mail Service Division of the U.S. Post Office Department after leaving the military. He and another pilot precipitated the nation's first strike when they refused to fly a trip because of what they deemed non-flyable weather. When the postal superintendent fired them, the rest of the pilots walked off their jobs, returning only after local station managers were allowed to cancel flights during inclement weather, with input from the pilots. When the Post Office Department stopped flying the mail in 1927, Lee was hired by Boeing Air Transport, which eventually merged with other carriers in 1934 to become United Air Lines.
Courtesy of United Air Lines, Soaring Through History.

E. Hamilton Lee
E. Hamilton Lee
Courtesy of The Chirp
Courtesy of The Chirp, 1993

     If you search for "E. Hamilton Lee +aviation" using Google, 2-15-04, you will find 17 links. Among the most helpful are the following.
The Last Air Mail
Pioneer Pilot

By Nancy Allison Wright
     This page offers a very comprehensive story of the career of E. Hamilton Lee, with special reference to his service in the pioneer Air Mail Service. Nancy, is editor of the Air Mail Pioneers News, a periodic newsletter of Air Mail Pioneers website. On the occasion of his 103rd birthday, she was able to interview him and has included many of his recollections in her story. It offers an opportunity to become acquainted with him personally, and by extension, the other pioneers of the era. To access the page , just click on the title above. If time permits, I suggest that you visit the many other unique resources which are to be found on her site.

Ellington Field: A Short History, 1917-1963
     This page offers a single paragraph with a reference to Lee. The citation reads:
     "Because of a lack of military pilots in 1917, the U.S. Army Air Service relied on civilian pilots to help train cadets. Civilian pilots often had mor flight experience than military aviators. During the war, Ellingon Field had seven civilian instructors: W.F. Sullivan, H.B. Crewdson, E.W. Cleveland, G.K. Hood, W.A. Pack, O.W. Hoover, and E.H. Lee. Upon graduation, a flight cadet would be christened a military aviator. After graduation, an aviator was shipped to Europe for more training and assignment to a combat squadron."
     To access the page , just click on the title above.


  "Ham", as he was affectionately known, took off on his last flight at 5:20 am, Thursday, October 13, 1994. He would have celebrated his 103rd birthday April 18, 1995. He was cremated and his ashes will be interred between graves of his father and mother in Cayuga, North Dakota. He wanted no services, but officials of the United Airlines Museum are attempting to have a commemoration service at the Air and Space Museum in Washington after first of the year. Should it be arranged, you will be advised, and later a transcript of the service will appear in this publication.
At age 18 he helped Calbraith Rodgers with the Vin Fiz when he landed in Chicago on his way to the west coast. This experience thrilled him so much he decided to become a pilot, which he did six years later when he soloed June 16, 1916. He served as instructor for the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps between June 1917 and December 1918 and afterwards flew the air mail route between New York and Washington and several other routes. In 1927 he began flying mail for Boeing Air Transport, continuing until 1949 with United Arilines when they took over from Boeing in 1929. Ham Lee never flew as co-pilot and was always number "1" on their seniority list.
     Clay Lacy, with his DC-3 suitable painted in UAL decor and with hostesses attired in vintage uniforms, put Ham in the left seat for a flight from San Bernardino to Van Nuys where he had arranged a surprise party celebrating Ham's hundredth birthday. Ham flew just as he did when he retired 43 years earlier. During this gala occasion he was honored by the Post Office Department and the FAA.
     Ham had a current California Drivers License until the DMV withdrew it in 1992. He had been driving to meet with friends for breakfast each morning, so this recall made him so angry he refused to cooperate with anyone. He had just been elected president of the Early Birds, and when the secretary asked for his signature to make a name stamp, he refused. An old letter of 1950 with his signature was found from which a stamp was made. In September 1993 he willingly signed a proxy.
     E. Hamilton Lee will be missed. Condolences to his family
From The Early Bird Times
Newsletter of the Early Birds of Aviation
October, 1994
by D. "Andy" Anderson.

E. Hamilton Lee
  Missouri Historical Society  
  E. Hamilton Lee made the first Chicago-to-St. Louis airmail flight on August 16, 1920. Lee and his Curtiss "Jenny" are shown in Forest Park shortly after his arrival
The History of Aviation in St. Louis
by James J. Horgan
The Patrice Press

The Last Air Mail Pioneer Pilot
By Nancy Allison Wright

     If you wish to read a really comprehensive and informative story of "Ham" Lee's career, I highly recommend clicking on the title and visiting the Air Mail Pioneers site. The site, dedicated to former employees of the U.S. Air Mail Services, is very complete and entertaining. In addition to the fascinating story of "Ham" Lee, you will enjoy other features such as History, Profiles, Newsletters, Mystery Photos, Members, Links and a Viewer Seeking Information page.
To access the home page, just click on:
Air Mail Pioneers

  Flying West
by E. Hamilton Lee

I hope there's a place, way up in the sky,
Where pilots can go, when they have to die-
A place where a guy can go and buy a cold beer
For a friend and comrade, whose memory is dear;
A place where no doctor or lawyer can tread,
Nor management type would ere be caught dead;
Just a quaint little place, kinda dark and full of smoke,
Where they like to sing loud, and love a good joke;
The kind of place where a lady could go
And feel safe and protected, by the men she would know.

There must be a place where old pilots go,
When their paining is finished, and their airspeed gets low,
Where the whiskey is old, and the women are young,
And the songs about flying and dying are sung,
Where you'd see all the fellows who'd flown west before.
And they'd call out your name, as you came through the door;
Who would buy you a drink if your thirst should be bad,
And relate to the others, "He was quite a good lad!"

And then through the mist, you'd spot an old guy
You had not seen for years, though he taught you how to fly.
He'd nod his old head, and grin ear to ear,
And say, "Welcome, my son, I'm pleased that you're here.
"For this is the place where true flyers come,
"When the journey is over, and the war has been won
"They've come here to at last to be safe and alone
From the government clerk and the management clone,
"Politicians and lawyers, the Feds and the noise
Where the hours are happy, and these good ol'boys
"Can relax with a cool one, and a well-deserved rest;
"This is Heaven, my son -- you've passed your last test!"

Capt. E. Hamilton Lee


Email from Mike Hodges
February 17, 2000

Hi Ralph and sorry for the late reply. Always behind.
The poem, "Flying West" was sent to me over the net as a forward from someone else. If I remember right, it went through a lot of hands before I got it. Not being able to gain any info on the author or permissions I posted the poem for it's obvious beauty and it's significance to all aviators. So, I have no permission to use the poem and would sure remove it if I were requested to do so by some authority. That's about all I can tell you at this time.
Really great page my friend. Keep it up.
Mike Hodges
Rat Pack "38"
187th Assault Helicopter Company
Tay Ninh, RVN 70 - 71
Editor's Note:
By clicking on the title, Flying West by E. Hamilton Lee
you can go to Mike's home page
where you will find many poems of this same type.
I highly recommend it to your attention

EMAIL from Wayne

fai cert#34
Editor's Note: My thanks to Wayne for this tidbit of information.

BackNext Home