Pilot/BroadcasterEnshrined 1987 1903-1983
Arthur Godfrey, regarded as the Columbia Broadcasting System’s biggest asset in the 1940s and 1950s, promoted aviation throughout his entire adult life.
He held an Airline Transport Rating and logged more than 17,000 hours in the air as a solo and command pilot in nearly fifty years of flying.
Godfrey was born in New York City on August 31, 1903, the same year that the Wright Brothers made their first successful flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
On October 5, 1929, his first radio broadcast aired over station WRBR in Baltimore, Maryland. While working in Baltimore, Godfrey finally saved enough money to learn to fly. After a series of dual lessons, he soloed in a Curtiss Robin and earned his private pilot’s license.
Godfrey developed an avid interest in aviation which he discussed at every opportunity on his daily radio program, “Arthur Godfrey and His Friends,” which was first broadcast in the mid-1940s. Eastern Air Lines president Captain Eddie Rickenbacker became elated with his unsolicited promotion of flying and authorized Godfrey to make a promotional film for Eastern.
The television spinoff version of “Arthur Godfrey and His Friends” aired in 1949. The program was renamed the “Arthur Godfrey Show” in 1956. At its peak, his weekly prime time audience was 82 million viewers, and his combined broadcasts were reported to have accounted for 12 percent of the total advertising revenues of CBS television.
In 1952 Godfrey developed a close and long-lasting friendship with U.S. Air Force General Curtis LeMay. Godfrey became such an ardent supporter of the Air Force that he resigned his commission as a commander in the Naval Reserve and accepted a retired commission in the Air Force Reserve.
Although a cancerous lung was removed from Godfrey in 1959, he was able to return to his five-day-a-week radio series.
In 1966, Godfrey participated in a record-setting flight around the world. He and his friend Captain Dick Merrill were the featured pilots on the flight, and they were accompanied by Fred Austin, an airline captain for TWA, and Karl Keller, a test pilot for the Rockwell Standard Corporation. They flew in a Rockwell “Jet Commander” business aircraft.
The 23,333 mile flight, which included 20 separate flight legs, was completed in 55 hours, 30 minutes flight time at an average speed of 423 miles per hour.
Godfrey retired from active broadcasting in 1971, but continued to appear in commercials and made occasional guest appearances on television and radio programs.
In 1976, Godfrey was elected an honorary life member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the organization. Arthur Godfrey was enshrined into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1987.
He had served as Master of Ceremonies of the Hall of Fame’s annual enshrinement ceremony program in 1963 and 1975, was a member of the distinguished Board of Nominations from 1974 to 1982, and served as presenter of enshrinee William T. Piper in 1980.
Godfrey died in 1983 at the age of 79 from pneumonia and emphysema.