The Daredevil who Landed in Memphis

Nov 12, 2013

Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie
Credit Des Moines Register via Wikipedia

This Memphis Moments gives wing to daredevil and aviator Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie.

Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie was a pioneer of flight. Born in 1902, the young Phoebe fell in love with flying, and, by 1920, she was touring the country with the Phoebe Fairgrave Flying Circus

She parachuted, danced on the wings, and hung by her teeth from planes. She set the record for a woman's parachute jump at 15,200 feet. Phoebe married her pilot, Vernon Omlie, in 1921. A year later, they literally landed in Memphis, and Phoebe became our own Amelia Earhart. 

She was the first woman to cross the Rocky Mountains in a light aircraft and campaigned for Franklin Roosevelt by air in 1932. During the Second World War, Phoebe helped establish 66 flying schools, including one in Tuskegee, AL, that trained black pilots.

The Omlies were instrumental in getting the Memphis airport built. In 1982, the control tower was named in their honor. A new tower, 10 years in the making, went into service in June of 2011. It, too, was officially named the Omlie Tower. 

Steve Pike is the Director of the Pink Palace. To learn more about all of our region's history, visit the Pink Palace Family of Museums