John Leland "Lee" Atwood

North American Aviation, Inc., 1926

atwood-largeLee Atwood was born in Walton, Kentucky on October 26, 1904. Atwood came to Simmons University in 1925. While at Simmons, he met and married Allene Goodnight. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics from Simmons in 1926 andthen moved on to study at the University of Texas, where in 1928 he received a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering.

He began his career as a design engineer at Douglas Aircraft Company before helping found what would become North American Aviation, Inc.Subsequently, he rose to become president, chief executive officer, and chairman of the company.

Atwood’s career was not only parallel to many of the significant events in aerospace history, his leadership helped to shape them. His technical skill was the force behind the company’s evolution into the aviation and space leader that produced more military aircraft than any other company. During World War II, he worked to produce the P-51 Mustang and the B-25 Mitchell bomber. North American eventually merged with Rockwell of Pittsburgh to become Rockwell International. During this time, Atwood oversaw the production of the Space Shuttle and the B-1 bomber.

Under his leadership, North American Rockwell captured three Collier Trophies for work on the F-100 supersonic fighter, the X-15 spaceplane, and the B-1 bomber. Atwood also received several individual awards, including: a Presidential Certificate of Merit from President Truman for his contributions during WWII, the Honorary Fellow for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1965, NASA’s Public Service Award, the Air Force Association’s Hap Arnold Trophy in 1970, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy in 1970, membership into the National Academy of Engineering in 1974, and induction into the International Aerospace Hall of Fame and the International Academy of Astronautics.

Lee Atwood died on March 5, 1999.

Inducted on April 5, 2002.

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