Arthur Godfrey landed his plane at the Gillespie County Airport near
Fredericksburg on October 15, 1955, he was one of best known entertainers
in America. Godfrey, a red-headed freckle-faced ukulele player, made
his name in radio and transitioned easily to television. In 1955 he
hosted a daily radio show and 2 weekly TV shows on CBS in New York.
His programs were a medley of music, goofy extemporaneous commercials
and uninhibited banter.
Godfrey was a powerful force in the entertainment business. His top-rated
TV show "Talent Scouts," an early day "America's Got Talent," gave
a shot in the arm to struggling performers Tony Bennett, Pat Boone,
Patsy Cline and Roy Clark, but the show's screening staff rejected
Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. The King and the Cricket succeeded
Godfrey was an experienced pilot. He got his pilot's license in 1929.
The plane he flew, a decked out DC-3, was a gift from his friend Eddie
Rickenbacker, World War I
flying ace and president of Eastern Air Lines. Godfrey regularly flew
the plane from his farm in Leesburg, Virginia to work in New York
The Old Redhead had a controlling personality and famous temper. He
was known for buzzing the tower at airports that did not give him
the runway he wanted, but he didn't have that problem in Gillespie
County. There was no tower and only one runway.
Godfrey had flown from Virginia to the Texas
Hill Country that October to visit his old friend Senator Lyndon
Johnson who was laid up at the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall
recuperating from a heart attack.
| LBJ, Ladybird
and Arthur Godfrey
Photo courtesy Fredericksburg Standard
Post reported that Godfrey made an earlier trip to the LBJ Ranch
at the request of Godfrey's friend, controversial Air Force General
Curtis LeMay. Godfrey, an outspoken proponent of aviation, went
down to Stonewall
to see "Lyndon" to lobby the senator for support of the B-52 bomber,
one of General LeMay's pet projects.
After landing at the Gillespie County Airport in October 1955, Godfrey
spent the night at the LBJ Ranch; then returned to the airport the
next day. By the time he arrived it was late afternoon and darkness
As Godfrey prepared to take off, he asked an attendant if the airport
had landing lights. When told the airport had no lights, Godfrey
responded "I'll send you some."
Day 1956 several large crates arrived at the Gillespie County Airport,
sent in care of Senator Lyndon B. Johnson from Arthur Godfrey, Leesburg,
Virginia. The crates held a complete set of landing lights.
After electricians installed the lights, county officials gathered
at the airport to throw the switch. Senator Johnson was on hand
for the ceremony.
In addition to being an entertainer and a pilot, Arthur Godfrey
was a conservationist and a student of ecology. He spoke to groups
all over the Unites States about the deterioration of the environment.
He wrote 3 books on the subject.
His interest in the environment, and his long friendship with President
Johnson and Lady Bird, brought him back to Gillespie
County in October 1972. He flew in from Virginia as the guest
of honor at Mrs. Johnson's Highway Beautification Award ceremony
at LBJ State
After the ceremony, and the obligatory Hill Country barbecue at
the LBJ Ranch, Godfrey and the President talked about Godfrey's
visit to the Hill Country 17 years earlier. Godfrey was pleased
to learn that his gift to the Gillespie County Airport was still
The two men talked about the night Godfrey's lights probably prevented
Not long after installed the lights back in 1956, a student pilot
training at a San Antonio
airfield got lost in the dark, spotted the lights and made a safe
landing. There is a good chance the pilot would have crashed had
the lights not been installed.
The story made news nationwide after Godfrey told it on the air
to his radio audience.
Senator Johnson placed the story of Arthur Godfrey's lights and
the emergency landing at Gillespie County Airport in the Congressional
June 1, 2019 Column
"Godfrey Honored Guest At Awards Program Today," Fredericksburg
Standard, October 11, 1972
"Sonora Man Wins Highway Beautification Award," Fredericksburg
Standard, October 18, 1972
"Godfrey Remembers Prior Visit: Airfield Donation," Fredericksburg
Standard, October 18, 1972
"Old Redhead's Back," Washington Post, August 4, 1979