COL Billy H “William H or Richard William” Arnold

COL Billy H “William H or Richard William” Arnold

Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Death 10 Nov 1976 (aged 70)
Oklahoma City, Cleveland County, Oklahoma, USA
Burial Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, USA
Plot Section 10, Block 3, Lot 5, Space 1
Memorial ID 195594596 · View Source
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Winner 1930 Indianapolis 500

Born Richard William Arnold, at some point in his life he changed his named to William Arnold and was known during his professional driving career as "Billy Arnold".

Cemetery burial records indicate that Billy Arnold was born December 16, 1905.

The 1930 Indy 500 belonged to Billy Arnold.

In the most dominating performance in the history of the race, Arnold took the lead on the third lap of the race and never gave it up. He won by a margin of seven minutes.

His 198 laps led still stands as a record.

Even more impressive, Arnold was just 24 at that time of his win.

Arnold continued his dominance for two more years before retiring after the 1932 season. In his three Indy 500 starts between 1930 and 1932, Arnold led 97.4 percent of the 421 laps he completed.

Billy Arnold, 1930 '500 Winner, Dies Oklahoma City (AP)

Billy Arnold, apparently the only man ever to take the lead of the Indianapolis '500' race on the third lap and hold it to ' victory, died yesterday of a cerebral hemorrhage.
He was 65.
Arnold won the 1930 '500' at a speed of 100.448 miles an hour, becoming the first driver to win at better than 100 mph without using a relief driver. He was 19 (24) years old at the time "and I doubt if he even had a driver's license," his widow said yesterday.
Arnold, born Dec. 16, 1910 (1905), at Chicago, is survived by his widow LaFrance (Avellina LaFrance Arnold) and a sister, Mrs. Vaughn Shoemaker of Carmel, Calif.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete.
Arnold, who earned a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois and, after his racing days were over, a Ph.D. from the Michigan Institute of Technology, won the wreck-marred 1930 Labor Day classic 10 laps ahead of William (Shorty) Cantlon, who was killed in the 1947 race. He made it to Victory although a seven-car pileup on the northeast turn left so little room to maneuver that he scraped a hub cap on a concrete retaining wall. Thirty-seven drivers and 37 riding mechanics started the 1930 race, and before it was over 12 cars were wrecked, one person was dead and 12 others were injured.
Arnold ran again in the 1931 and 1932 events, but was knocked out of both when his cars were wrecked while he was leading. In 1931, Arnold suffered a broken pelvis and his riding mechanic, Spider Matlock, received a broken collar bone. The next year Matlock got a broken pelvis while Arnold received a cracked collar bone. He raced some in France, Morocco and England and then retired from competition, joining the Chrysler Corp. as an engineer.
A week later after" the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Arnold joined the Army Air Corps as an engineer and pilot. He served with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower as chief of maintenance for the 8th Air Force and left the service in 1945 as a one-star general. After five years as an auto dealer here, Arnold entered the lumber and construction business. Between 1950 and 1958 he developed water skis and is among the pioneers of the sort in the United States.

Indianapolis Star 11 Nov 1976 Page 49

Billy Arnold

Many auto racing stars from the pre-World War II era often don’t get the recognition they deserve, and Billy Arnold is a classic example. Arnold was the undisputed man to beat at Indianapolis from 1930-32 and once can only speculate what he would have achieved had he not retired from driving after the 1932 season, prior to his 27th birthday.

Arnold made only five Indianapolis starts from 1928-32, but his victory from pole position in the 1930 race when he was just 24 years old was the most dominant in this history of the race. Arnold took the lead on the third lap and never relinquished it, winning by a margin of more than seven minutes. His 198 laps led in 1930 still remains the race record. Despite his short career as an Indy car racer, Arnold led three of his five Indy starts for a total of 410 laps, putting him 12th on the all-time list.

Arnold made his first Indy start in 1928, finishing seventh, and he drove to eighth place the following year. His break came in 1930 when he replaced Harry Hartz in the Summer-Miller entry. Hartz had won the 1926 AAA national championship and finished second at Indianapolis three times, but he suffered serious leg injuries in an accident at the Salem, New Hampshire board track in 1927 and was attempting a comeback.

Hartz ran some practice laps and proved the car was fast, but he didn’t believe he could withstand the rigors of 500 miles of racing. He handed the car to Arnold, who qualified it on pole position. After losing the lead at the start to Louis Meyer, Arnold took the lead on the third lap and was never again headed, winning by 7 minutes and 17 seconds.

Arnold was among the quickest again in 1931 but he started 18th as a second day qualifier. It took him only seven laps to reach the front and he had a five-lap lead when he crashed out on the 163rd lap. His final Indianapolis start was much the same: Took the lead on the second lap, but another crash, this time in avoidance of another car.

In that series of three ‘500’s from 1930-32, he led 97.4 per cent of the 421 laps he completed. After his Indy 500 triumph in 1930, Arnold starred as himself alongside James Cagney in the motion picture “The Crowd Roars.” But at the urging of his wife, he retired after the 1932 Indianapolis 500.

Arnold went on to compile a distinguished military career and he generally turned his back on racing. His last known appearance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway came in 1955, 21 years prior to his death.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Web site "People of IMS"

As a result of Billy Arnold's crash while leading in 1931, a tire from his car flew out of the speedway, bounced across the street, struck and killed 11 year old Wilbur Brink who was standing in his front yard.

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Gravesite Details Winner 1930 Indianapolis 500

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  • Created by: Paul
  • Added: 27 Dec 2018
  • Find A Grave Memorial 195594596
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for COL Billy H “William H or Richard William” Arnold (16 Dec 1905–10 Nov 1976), Find A Grave Memorial no. 195594596, citing Resurrection Memorial Cemetery, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, USA ; Maintained by Paul (contributor 48889809) .