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James McCurdy Patton, Jr. – 12-26-1927 – 11-18-2014

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I”ve had such a great life that I decided to skip a step and write my own obituary.

Born in Lockhart, Texas in 1927, I pursued a lifelong dream of flight, first just dreaming, then doing – first in high school when I learned to fly, then as a U.S. Naval aviator for six years (including day and night flying from carriers – the best and most challenging flying I ever did). T

hen it was back to school to earn an Aeronautical Engineering degree in 1956 from the University of Colorado. During this period I flew fighters as a Weekend Warrior in the U.S. Naval Reserve for 11 years.

From 1956, I had a long and happy 46-year career in flight testing: two years as a Flight Test Engineer at Vought Aircraft, eight years as Flight Test Pilot in the Federal Aviation Agency (during which time I attended and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School), 21 years as a NASA Research Pilot, Chief Test Pilot and Head of Flight Operations at the NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia, and then after I retired from NASA, 15 years as an independent test pilot, testing experimental airplanes, finally hanging it up in 2002. Throughout, I flew more than 9,000 hours in piloting 157 types of aircraft, including fighters, transports, helicopters, and many experimental craft, and became an internationally-recognized expert in spins and high angle-of-attack flight.

An elected Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) in 1980, I received many awards, including the Iven C. Kincheloe Award in 1978 from the SETP for outstanding accomplishment in flight testing, and from NASA their Exceptional Service medal in 1979, for outstanding service and contribution as an engineer/test pilot. In 2009 I was inducted into the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame.

I was equally fortunate in my personal life. During Naval flight training, I was a roommate for a time with Cleo Swartz. After we got our wings we were both stationed in the Norfolk, Virginia area. On weekends, we”d drive to Philadelphia in my trusty “41 Chevy to visit his parents…and his kid sister Marcie, who was very pretty, but at 17 and a buddy”s sister, off-limits. Well, things changed. Five years later, we were married (in 1954). It took.

In all this time, she”s been my love and the best friend I”ve ever had. We were blessed with three wonderful girls and two fine grandsons, Kathi (son Brendan), Dana (son Christopher) and Ellen. In accepting the Kincheloe Award from the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, the Professional recognition I prized above all others, I gave Marcie credit for her willingness to endure long separations and many household moves so I could follow my dream with airplanes while she played a major role in raising our three lovely girls and keeping the household together.

In many ways Marcie made me a better person. During our time in Virginia, she was active in volunteer activities. After NASA retirement, I began following her lead, into Meals on Wheels and Hospice volunteer work (patient care).

My parents, James M. Patton and Nan L. Patton, went before me. I am survived by Marcie, our girls, our two grandsons, and my beloved sister, Nancy Patton Wilson.

I did my share of screw-ups, but I couldn”t have asked for a happier life. I was a dreamer, but it was much more than I had ever dreamed of or had the temerity to wish for. This being an obituary, if you knew me and cared, raise a glass. It”s really a celebration, and I”ve departed a winner.

Jim Patton
In lieu of a Memorial Service, a celebration of his life will occur shortly after the New Year.

ginia, she was active in volunteer activities. After NASA retirement, I began following her lead, into Meals on Wheels and Hospice volunteer work (patient care).
My parents, James M. Patton and Nan L. Patton, went before me. I am survived by Marcie, our girls, our two grandsons, and my beloved sister Nancy Patton Wilson.
I did my share of screw-ups, but I couldn”t have asked for a happier life. I was a dreamer, but it was much more than I had ever dreamed of or had the temerity to wish for. This being an obituary, if you knew me and cared, raise a glass. It”s really a celebration, and I”ve departed a winner.

Mr. Patton passed away on Nov. 18, 2014. In lieu of a Memorial Service, a celebration of his life will occur shortly after the New Year.

 

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