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Tigers: Tracking a Legend
Carl B. Squier
Had it not been for Carl Brown Squier of Decatur, Michigan, Kelly Johnson and the Skunkworks would never have created some of the most important planes in history. Squire literally saved Lockheed from becoming a mere footnote in aviation history. With Lockheed on the verge of bankruptcy, Squier provided the organizational genius that kept the company going and sold the company's products like no other salesman could. He contributed to the success of our nation's armed forces in two wars, and made a huge impact on the modern aviation industry.
Born on April 17, 1893, and growing up on a Michigan farm, Squier went on to become the 13th licensed pilot in the United States. While attending the University of Michigan in 1917, he decided to join the Army Signal Corps. He went to officer's school at Fort Sheridan and did preliminary training in Texas. He went on to San Diego for his first military flights and passed his test to receive his commission. He trained at Selfridge Field, Michigan, and became a combat pilot in France. He formed a good friendship with Eddie Rickenbacker and later sold Rickenbacker cars.
After the war, Squier was active in organizing chapters of the National Aeronautic Association. He barnstormed with Eddie Stinson and was employed by the Stinson Company. In 1928 he became Vice President of the Eastman Flying Boat Corporation. Detroit Aircraft bought out Eastman and in 1929 Squier was sent to California to take over the Lockheed subsidiary.
When the stock market crashed, Detroit Aircraft Corporation became insolvent, while Lockheed remained in the black. Squier was so dedicated to the company and its employees that in 1932 he depleted his own savings and mortgaged his car and house to meet the payroll. Alas, the economic conditions were so bad that he could keep the company afloat.
"The Lockheed name is too good to die," he said. So Squier, who would become known as the "world's greatest airplane salesman," made perhaps his greatest sale of all; not of an airplane, but of an airplane company. He convinced investor Robert E. Gross and associates to buy the company. Lockheed-Martin remains one of the leading aviation companies of the world to date.
Carl's personal motto was: "Make a friend, sell a plane." He sold aircraft to Amelia Earhart, Wiley Post, Charles Lindbergh, Howard Hughes and Arctic bush pilot Ben Eielson. In all, Squier was responsible for selling Lockheed aircraft to 28 airlines and the militaries of nine governments.
During World War II, Squier oversaw the building and operations of the company's base in Ireland, and was responsible for Lockheed's field services in Africa, China, and the Pacific. After the war, he served as Vice President of sales until 1956. Upon Squier's death in 1967, Chairman of the Board D.J. Haughton said that Squier "had been a pivotal figure in the growth of Lockheed... it is no exaggeration to say that had there been no Carl Squier, there quite conceivably would have been no Lockheed today."
Carl B. Squier was enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on October 2, 2004.