History and images have been compiled from various sources including, among others, the 1987 National Register of Historic Places, Stack & Beasley's 1902 Sketches of Monroe and Union County, Union County Public Library (Patricia Poland, Genealogy & Local History Librarian), the Heritage Room Photo Collection, North Carolina Map Collection, Rootsweb - An Ancestry.com Community and Ancestry.com family histories.

First Two Monroe Airports - J. Ray Shute

1924 - Heritage Room Collection photo
J. Ray Shute 
Heritage Room Collection photo
J. Ray Shute
Heritage Room Collection
J. Ray Shute (1904-1988)
1982 Interview by Wayne Durrill

"I got in the automobile business along about 1925, I believe, and it did bring me in touch with Henry Adams, and the two of us together built the first airport in Monroe, on the Waxhaw Road, which operated for several years. We built seven planes, and we were the competitors of Pan American. We were a little bit larger than they were at that time. They were based down in Miami, and we were the opposition bidders against them for all foreign airmail contracts. We always underbid them, but we never did get any.

"I finally went to Washington and talked to the Postmaster General and practically accused him of shenanigans with Pan American, giving them the contracts at the maximum rate, which was two dollars a pound-mile. We had bid what we thought we had bid in the route to Nassau and the one to Havana and the one to Mexico City, but we didn't get any of them. When he didn't throw me out of his office for insinuating he was crooked, then I knew I had hit the nail on the head. That's the reason that when Roosevelt became President, he cancelled all the foreign airmail contracts and renegotiated all of them. He flew a lot of the airmail contracts with the Army pilots, which was almost a disaster.

"Anyhow, we had an airplane business here in Monroe. We did air photography, student training, and mostly passenger-hopping. People loved to go up in planes back then; it was so new, right after World War I, that they'd come out on Saturdays and Sundays. We'd do a tremendous business. We opened the first flying field in Charlotte, Gastonia, Mount Airy, Durham, Camden, Columbia. We operated in a lot of different places.

"That was beginning in 1926. For about three years, I was involved. The panic in '29 caught all of us. As a matter of fact, I sold my automobile business about that time on credit. (I might say, parenthetically, I never got a penny for it. The local hospital, which was municipally owned, was leased to this doctor from South Carolina who was a very good surgeon, and he brought two other surgeons with him, and they had gotten in terrible financial condition. Dr. Mahoney asked me to come as business manager to try to get them out of debt, and I did. I went over there and stayed for nearly a year and got them in fairly good condition and then left them. In the meantime, all the banks closed, and everything went to pot.)

"Henry S. Adams, who was an insurance man, a very fine gentleman. In World War II, he trained pilots for the Air Force. He was a civilian. Then he and I together built the first municipal airport in Monroe and operated it for twenty years. It was a large airport with hangars and everything. We had a school, A and E Mechanics' School for pilots of all types. We did a brokerage business in the United States and Canada in war surplus planes and operated flight schools and everything. It was a very successful operation.

"We opened that airport in '46 on a ten-year lease with a ten-year option, which we exercised, and we built the buildings out there, too. That was located where the Monroe Mall now is, that property in there around Dickerson Boulevard. It was a very fine operation. My oldest son was killed flying out of that airport. He was a licensed pilot, and he was studying for his commercial pilot's license when something went wrong with his plane. I had bought him a plane from the Royal Canadian Air Force. As a matter of fact, we bought three of them and sent up pilots who flew them back down here and sent them through our repair depot and had them licensed in America. They were excellent planes, and I had one of those for him when he came out of the Air Force, not as a pilot but as a tail-gunner. He was in the Far East in the Air Force and didn't get a scratch until he got back, and he was killed shortly after he got back."

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