The death of Orville Wright, who achieved the first powered, sustained airplane flight with his brother Wilbur, resonated around the world.
Wright died in his sleep at Miami Valley Hospital on Jan. 30, 1948, four days after suffering a heart attack at his laboratory on North Broadway Street.
Tributes to the aviation pioneer poured in from far and wide and were published in the pages of the Dayton Daily News.
“In the passing of Orville Wright the world has lost one of its great men, one whose contribution to its progress we have only begun to measure,” wrote Col. Edward Deeds, board chair of the National Cash Register Co.
“I have known Orville Wright for almost 50 years,” wrote James M. Cox, the publisher of the Dayton Daily News. “Others more acquainted with the sciences than I can better speak of his genius, but my admiration for the fine qualities of his character has amounted almost to a reverence. History will give him equal rank with his brother, Wilbur.”
President Harry S. Truman sent his sentiments from the White House to the Wright family:
“Please accept the deepest sympathy of Mrs. Truman and myself in your great bereavement. Few men have so profoundly affected the course of history as Orville and Wilbur Wright. Few men have opened up to mankind such great possibilities for an increasingly better world. They will be remembered always by their fellow countrymen with admiration and gratitude. HARRY S. TRUMAN”
The Dayton Daily News reported that “civic life in Dayton came to a virtual standstill Monday afternoon as Dayton paused to honor Orville Wright.”
Mayor Edward Breen proclaimed the city enter a period of mourning for the inventor.
Flags were lowered to half-staff and municipal and county offices, the University of Dayton and area schools closed at noon. Dignitaries from across the country flew into Patterson Field to attend the funeral.
The First Baptist Church on Monument Avenue was packed for the afternoon services.
The newspaper reported more than 100 floral tributes covered the altar as the pastor of the church, Dr. Charles L. Seasholes, eulogized Wright as a genius and yet “a man who was just one of folks like us – middle class, Mid-Western American, with simple, devout parents, and a simple and modest way of life.”
Pallbearers carried the bronze casket past eight policeman and eight fireman forming a “cordon of honor” on the church steps. The funeral procession slowly made its way along Main Street, through the heart of the city, as hundreds of Daytonians lined the sidewalks.
Orville Wright’s procession, escorted by the highway patrol and Dayton police, ended at Woodland Cemetery where his brother Wilbur was buried in 1912.
As he was laid to rest a formation of P-80 jet planes passed over in tribute. The grouping was “battle-type” but with just four planes, the fifth was absent in honor of Wright, reported the newspaper.
“The planes made two other passes over the cemetery, dipping their wings on the final pass in honor of a departed brother,” the newspaper reported.
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