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 Thomas H Smith

Thomas H Smith

Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Death 31 Dec 2006 (aged 72)
Lancaster, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
Memorial ID 17300786 · View Source
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Ex-U-2, SR-71 pilot, Palmdale councilman dies
This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press on Wednesday, January 3, 2007.

Valley Press Staff Writer
Former Palmdale city councilman and planning commissioner Tom Smith, who helped oversee the city's rapid growth in the late 1980s, died Dec. 31. The Rosamond resident was 72.

Prior to his political career, Smith was a test pilot for programs such as the U-2 and SR-71. He was also executive director of the Lancaster-based Society of Experimental Test Pilots from 1983 to 1996.

Smith served as councilman and vice mayor from 1986 to 1990, during which time he helped approve such large-scale retail projects as the Antelope Valley Mall and the Palmdale Auto Mall.

Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford was appointed to the Planning Commission during Smith's City Council tenure.

"He helped bring a new level of sophistication to the city of Palmdale," Ledford said Tuesday. The council on which Smith served "helped set the stage for what you see today."

The city began work on its General Plan during Smith's time on the council, laying the foundation for Palmdale's development.

"That's an important step for our city," Ledford said. "I think the blueprint was the important thing, and he was there to initiate it."

Defeated in his re-election attempt in 1990, Smith went on to serve as field representative to Republican Assemblyman Phil Wyman of Lancaster. He also mounted an unsuccessful campaign for City Council in 1994, running on a platform of significantly increasing the city's law enforcement budget.

Born in Chicago, Smith had a brief tour with the Navy before joining the Air Force in 1953 in hope of becoming a test pilot. After an assignment as a reconnaissance pilot in Japan, he graduated from Oklahoma State University with a mechanical engineering degree.

This led to the Air Force Test Pilot School, from whichhe graduated in 1966. Until 1969, he served as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base, where his duties included command of the U-2 flight test program.

Smith left the test pilot corps to serve as an F-4 pilot in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970, flying more than 100 combat missions.

He returned to Edwards, where he became chief of the fighter test branch at the Air Force Flight Test Center there, followed by a stint as test force director and chief Air Force test pilot for the SR-71 Blackbird test force in Palmdale from 1972 to 1975.

After his retirement from the Air Force with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1976, Smith worked for Lear-Siegler in Santa Monica and later as a test pilot with the Swearingen Aviation Division of Fairchild Industries.

Smith's association with the Society of Experimental Test Pilots began when he joined in 1968. He served as general manager of the society from 1978 to 1979, then returned as executive director from 1983 to 1996. He was secretary of the test pilots' Scholarship Foundation at the time of his death.

Smith is survived by his wife, Darlene, her two daughters, his three children, one stepson and nine grandchildren.

A memorial service for Smith is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Halley-Olsen-Murphy Memorial Chapel, 44802 Date Ave., in Lancaster.

Smith will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

The family requests contributions to the SETP Scholarship Foundation in lieu of flowers.

Antelope Valley Press
Classification 1000
Obituary notices and memorials
These ads appeared in the Antelope Valley Press Thursday, January 4, 2007
SMITH, Thomas H.
Retired Air Force Test Pilot
Thomas H. Smith, a decorated, retired test pilot, politician, and businessman, died on Dec. 31, 2006, in Lancaster, California. Smith was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 3, 1934, to Harold and Mildred Smith. He is survived by his wife Darlene and her two daughters, Anna and Sarah, his three children, Karen Schaefer of Hope, Mich., Carol Cushman of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., Tom of Irvine, Calif., step-son Ryan of Eugene, Oregon, nine grandchildren, six brothers, Dick and Eileen of York, Neb., Jim and Ellen of Waterloo, Iowa, Paul of Waterloo, Iowa, Robert of Refugio, Texas, Peter and Jane of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Kevin of Surfside Beach, S.C. Also surviving are a sister-in-law Wanda Smith of Ankeny, Iowa, brother- in-law Ralph Russell of Council Bluffs, Iowa and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers Dave and Phillip and his sister Joanne. Tom attended St. Francis and Abraham Lincoln High Schools in Council Bluffs, Iowa where he graduated in 1952. After a brief tour in the Navy, he joined the Air Force in 1953, in order to fulfill his lifetime dream of becom- ing a Test Pilot. He attended Squadron Officers School at San Angelo, Texas, and married Julane E. Dugger from San Antonio in 1955. After an assignment as a reconnaissance pilot at Johnson AFB, Japan he attended the Air Command and Staff College and then Oklahoma State University where he graduated with a B.S. Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1965. He fulfilled his dream when he was accepted into the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, class of 1965-C. From 1967 to 1969, Smith was the Commander of the U-2 Flight Test Program at Edwards. He was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for his service to the Flight Test Center in 1969, and then served a tour in Vietnam as an F-4 Fighter Pilot, flying over 100 combat missions. His awards included the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with first and second oak leaf clusters, and the Bronze Star for meritorious service as Flight Commander, Mission Launch Officer, Directorate of Combat Operations, and Deputy Chief of Staff. After returning from Vietnam, Smith worked as the Commander, Fighter Test at Edwards AFB. He managed the flight test programs of several V/STOL experimental aircraft and then as the Chief Test Pilot and Commander of the SR-71 "Blackbird" Test Force from 1972 to 1975. He received an M.S. in Business Administration and then attended the USAF Air War College in 1976. After retiring from the Air Force with the rank of Lt. Colonel, Smith worked briefly as the Executive Director of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots but then
returned to his love of flying and testing airplanes as a Test Pilot with Fairchild Corporation in San Antonio, Texas. He later served as the Marketing Manager, Military Flight Control Systems, of Lear Siegler Astronics from 1981-1983, before returning to the Test Pilot Society as Executive Director until 1997. During this time, he also served his community as Planning Commissioner for the City of Palmdale, City Councilman and Vice Mayor of Palmdale (1988-1989), Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Palmdale Hospital and Administrative Assistance to the State Legislator. His last work before retirement was as President of Aviatrek International, which involved a close working relationship with nine sponsoring Russian Corporations. Tom and his wife enjoyed their retirement on their farm near Woodbine, Iowa before returning to Rosamond, California just a few miles outside Edwards AFB where he spent much of his career, learning, teaching and testing many of the Air Force experimental high performance aircraft. "He was devoted to his profession of testing aircraft and his sense of public duty" said his son Tom, a business executive from Irvine, Calif. "He was amusing, witty, very intelligent, and just a wonderful person to be around." Services will be held at 1 p.m., Saturday, January 6, 2006, at Halley Olsen Murphy, Lancaster, California. In lieu of flowers memorials may be sent to the SETP Scholarship Foundation in Lancaster, California. After cremation, ashes will be interred at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Name: Thomas H. Smith
Last Residence: 93560 Rosamond, Kern, California
Born: 3 May 1934
Died: 31 Dec 2006
State (Year) SSN issued:
Iowa (Before 1951 )




  • Created by: Tami Kelley
  • Added: 4 Jan 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 17300786
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas H Smith (3 May 1934–31 Dec 2006), Find A Grave Memorial no. 17300786, citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Tami Kelley (contributor 46584454) .