In 1928, Harry Williams, lumberman and former mayor of Patterson, LA, met Menefee Airways pilot James (Jimmy) Wedell. Wedell gave Williams flying lessons. The two instantly became friends despite their highly dissimilar backgrounds.
Wedell came from a working-class family. From an early age, Wedell showed a capacity for building engines, having completed his first one as a teenager. Following a motorcycle accident that threw Wedell face-first into a pile of oyster shells, Wedell was blind in one eye and thus disqualified from flying in World War I. A barnstormer (stunt pilot) taught Wedell how to fly and Wedell soon became a barnstormer himself. When Wedell's brother, Walter, also became a barnstormer after serving in the army during World War I. The Wedell brothers began working for James Menefee, a car salesman in New Orleans, at an airport in St. Bernard Parish.
Harry Williams was born and raised in Patterson, LA. Williams' father, Frank B. Williams, was a wealthy lumberman known as "The Cypress King." After serving in World War I, Harry Williams worked for the cypress company and developed a love for speed that included fast cars and boats. Williams married silent screen star Marguerite Clark. After watching Jimmy Wedell fly, Williams understood the airplane’s potential for speed, igniting a passion for aviation and its promotion. Wedell’s had ideas about how to build faster airplanes. Fascinated, Williams backed Wedell's ideas financially and in May 1929, the Wedell-Williams Air Service came into existence.