End of the Wedell-Williams Air Service

Stop 6 of 7 in the Wedell-Williams Airport in Jefferson Parish tour

The Air Service hit its height in 1933 and 1934, but it experienced a period of decline partially due to the construction of the Shushan Airport in November 1933. The air service took a bigger hit with the death of Jimmy Wedell in June 1934. His plane crashed during a training flight not far from the airport in Patterson, crushing his skull and killing him instantly. The air service lost its vice president and major creative mind. Wedell held the world speed record at the time of his death.

The air service would lose another major creative mind with the death of Jimmy’s brother, Walter Wedell, in a plane crash in July 1935. He and a passenger went down in the Gulf of Mexico. The circumstances of the crash remain mysterious.

The final death-knell of the air service was the death of Harry Williams, the president, majority stockholder, and biggest financial supporter. His plane went down just outside of Baton Rouge, killing both him and John Worthen, a Wedell-Williams pilot. Williams's wife, Marguerite Clark Williams, assumed presidency of the company, but falling revenues and competition with the Shushan Airport (now the New Orleans Lakefront Airport) left an opening for other aviation companies to buy the air service. Eastern Airlines, in particular, was interested in buying the air service to take possession of the airmail route from New Orleans to Houston, which would allow Eastern Airlines to break into the Texas market and take possession of the air service’s fleet of airplanes. By 1937, Mrs. Williams sold the company to Eastern Airlines’s general manager, Eddie Rickenbacker, thus ending the Wedell-Williams Air Service.

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