|Date of Birth||1 February 1894 , Iuka, Mississippi, USA|
|Date of Death||31 October 1982 , Lake Elsinore, California, USA|
|Birth Name||Henry Tindall Merrill|
Mini Bio (1)
These days, it's a little hard to imagine the celebrity status once given to pilots, but for the generation prior to WW2, pioneer aviators were revered like astronauts were in the 1960's. While not as famous as Charles Lindbergh or Amelia Earhart, Henry Tyndall "Dick" Merrill ranked as a world-famous pilot by the 1930s - most notable for the 1936 so-called Trans-Atlantic "Ping Pong" ball flight in millionaire singer Harry Richman's heavily modified Vultee, christened 'Lady Peace' (which crashed on it's return journey due to Richman accidentally dumping the fuel) and completing the first commercial trans-Atlantic flight (co-piloted by 27-year old Jack Lambie) in history, flying a Lockheed Model 10E Electra, appropriately named the "Daily Express" that was specially commissioned to shuttle back newsreel footage of the May 10, 1937 coronation of King George VI (which resulted in a one-shot movie contract with low-budget Monogram Pictures for Atlantic Flight (1937). Dick had begun learning to fly while stationed in France in WWI but returned home to work on the Illinois Central Railroad as a fireman. He began his aviation career in earnest when he bought a 90-horsepower Curtiss JN4 "Jenny" for $600 at a war surplus sale in Columbus, Georgia in 1920. Merrill spent most of the 1920s barnstorming at air shows and eventually became an air mail service pilot, becoming its highest paid pilot (earning $13,000 in 1930 @ ten cents per air mile) before signing on with the floundering Eastern Airlines after it was restructured under the control of Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker with Merrill heavily promoted as its star pilot. Unlike some of his peers, Merrill was no hot shot. He was a deliberate and careful pilot, so well regarded that many celebrities (his friend Walter Winchell and even General Eisenhower during his 1952 presidential campaign) specifically requested to fly with him. Merrill's calm skills were evident during a flight in 1948 when the prop on an EAL Constellation tore through the fuselage at 10,000 feet off the Florida coast and killed a steward instantly. Dick was credited with saving the lives of 69 people on board. Outwardly humble and unassuming, Dick throughly enjoyed his celebrity and although a non-smoking tea-toadler, he loved the nightlife and hobnobbed with both the famous and infamous. If he had a vice, it was gambling, he habitually spent his high Depression-era income practically as fast as he earned it--- he was habitually broke and it took marriage to settle his financial irresponsibility. He married vivacious 22-year old actress Toby Wing in 1938- twice actually; her mother objected to their original marriage in Tijuana and the couple "officially" married later that June at the home of Sidney Shannon (an early EAL backer and close personal friend) in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She left Hollywood and retired from acting in late 1938 after a brief Broadway run in the Cole Porter musical flop, "You Never Know," that starred Clifton Webb, Libby Holman and Lupe Velez. Despite their 20+ year age difference, they enjoyed a remarkable 44-year marriage. The couple settled in Miami with Dick assigned the Eastern Airlines Miami to New York runs with occasional flights to South America. Too old for a commission, Dick signed on as a civilian MTD pilot and flew the China-Burma "Hump" in DC3's and C-46 Commandos during the war conducting critical supply lights and survey missions. He returned to Eastern Airlines after the war and officially retired from Eastern Airlines on Oct. 3, 1961 after flying a DC8 from New York to Miami, reputedly with the most air miles of any pilot in commercial aviation history, and ranked as the second most senior pilot with the airline. Dick continued to fly into his 80's whenever the opportunity arose, accompanying friend Arthur Godfrey on an around the world flight in 1966, set a speed record at age 78, delivering a Lockheed L-1011 Tri-Star from California to Miami at an average 710 MPH ground speed, and once flew an SST Concorde. Virtually no civilian pilot in the history of aviation piloted such a vast range of aircraft. After Dick's death in October, 1982, Toby spent the remainder of her life actively promoting her husband's rightful place in the annals of aviation history.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jack Backstreet
|Toby Wing||(1938 - 31 October 1982) (his death) (2 children)|