Maxine Edmondson Flournoy to celebrate 100th birthday
Maxine Edmondson Flournoy, a longtime resident of Alice who now lives in Corpus Christi, is about to mark another milestone in her life. On March 30, 2021, Flournoy will celebrate her 100th birthday.
She was born in Wheaton, Missouri in 1921. Flournoy has had a remarkable life.
In March 2010, she received the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the United States, for her outstanding service. She accepted the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of her role in breaking flying and gender barriers in the United States Armed Forces. At 22, Flournoy received her training in Sweetwater Airfield in Sweetwater, Texas. Her base assignment was the Hondo Army Airfield and she acquired her flying skills at Kingman Army Air Base in Orlando, Florida.
Flournoy served as a pilot in World War II as a WASP (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots). In 1941, she obtained her pilot's license through the Civil Pilot Training at Joplin Junior College. Flournoy was contacted in 1943 by a WASP recruiter to join the group.
During that time, she was working for the war effort as a grinder at a defense plant making dies for bullet shell casings. Maxine then decided to quit her job and she took a bus to Kansas City to volunteer as a WASP. She received WASP training alongside male cadets, making it more of a challenge to be accepted.
WASP did everything else their male-partners did except combat training. Once chosen as a WASP, Flournoy was transported by train to Hondo, Texas, Army base where she lived in the barracks with the other women pilots. She and the other WASP recipients were sent to an officer training school in Orlando, Fla., at which the group received the first Santiago blue uniforms issued to them along with the shoulder bag.
These ladies were the first women to fly U.S. military aircraft and helped pave the way for women in the aviation field.
After the WASP program disbanded, Flournoy was hired as a commercial pilot in Alice, Texas. She was then introduced to a young petroleum engineer, Lucien Flournoy.
After a year of dating, they married and remained married for 56 years until Lucien’s death in 2003. They had three daughters and 11 grandchildren.
Maxine Flournoy continued flying and attended the WASP meetings across the country.
Former President Jimmy Carter appointed Flournoy to the World USO board, for which she attended meetings in many different countries.
In 2003, Lucien and Maxine donated an airplane hanger to the Third Coast Squadron Commemorative Air Force in Alice. The squadron was named after Maxine and the hanger houses aircraft that fly in several shows. The hanger houses a military museum which holds an induction ceremony each year.
The Flournoy family was a staple in the Alice and Jim Wells County community for many years.
In March of 2003, The Texas House of Representatives honored the family's contributions to the city and county by naming a stretch of road, from Main Street to Farm-to-Market 665, after the family.