USMA Class of 1918. Cullum No. 6100.
Aviation Pioneer. Military Officer. Athlete. He worked his way through the University of South Dakota and graduated at the head of his engineering class. He continued his education at West Point where he was the Football Captain and the best all-around athlete in his class. He graduated 72 out of a class of 227. After graduation he served in the Corps of Engineers and the Air Service. He was the first Air Service officer assigned to the USMA in the early 1920s where he was an Olympic Team Coach for the United States Pentathlon team. He was a participant in the the 1920 Summer Olympics and the 1924 Summer Olympics, where he placed seventh in the decathlon. He resigned from the United States Army in 1926 and was a pioneer in air aviation organizing and operating TWA. In 1933 he was appointed the United States Director of Air Commerce by President Franklin Roosevelt. He appeared on the cover of Time magazine and was recognized by the United States Chamber of Commerce as one of the 12 Outstanding Young Men of America. He organized the Vidal Company which held the Vidal Process, a method of molding plywood into various shapes. It was highlighted in the Saturday Evening Post and he was presented with a Doctor of Science Degree from Lawrence College. In 1942, he suffered a heart attack, which made it impossible for him to serve during World War II, but he became the Aviation Adviser to the Chief of Staff and a member of the Secretary of the Army’s Scientific Advisory Panel. He continued to engage in research and development from molded plywood to fiberglass and polyethylene plastic. He died after a brief illness in California while he was on a round-the-world trip. His ashes were scattered at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, which was his first military post after his graduation from West Point. In 1922, he was married to Nina Gore. They were the parents of one son, Eugene Luther Gore Vidal, later known as Gore Vidal, the well-known author and playwright. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1935. In 1939, he married Katharine Kit Roberts [1918-2001]. They were the parents of one daughter and one son. He was survived by his wife; his brother, General Felix Vidal, USMA Class of 1933; two sisters, Lorene Jones [1895-1980] and Margaret Sutton; one daughter and two sons. His wife, Katharine, remarried to James C. Smith.
Source: West Point Association of Graduates memorial article.
Nina Gore Olds
1903–1978 (m. 1922)
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