Thirty-two years ago the lead editorial in the Birmingham Post-Herald bid farewell to Steadman Acker. I quote:
“It was Steadman Acker’s early appreciation of the future of aviation and his devotion to its advancement that gave Birmingham a lead over most American cities as a key crossroads of the air. It was his vision and energy, his ability to sell an idea that made the people of our community air minded in the days when commercial aviation was struggling for its place in the sun.”
Mr. Acker began his aviation career as a naval aviator in World War One. He organized and commanded the first night flying school while instructing in the navy. After the war, he did some barnstorming and stunt flying.
Mr. Acker’s real aviation beginning happened over East Lake Park in Birmingham on July 30, 1914, at the age of 18. He made a balloon ascension to 2,200 feet and his first parachute jump, this earning his membership in the Early Birds. Steadham Acker was born in Gadsden, Alabama in 1896. He was educated in Alabama and earned his B.S. Degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Alabama. He was a real estate broker in Birmingham from 1925 until 1931.
In 1931 he became the airport manager at Birmingham and his public service to aviation became apparent to everyone. From June 1931 until June 1950 he managed thirteen National Air Carnivals at Birmingham which attracted as many as 200,000 spectators in one day. The shows had performers such as Jimmy Doolittle, Claire Chennault, Al Williams, and Roscoe Turner. The Army Air Corps, Navy and Marines participated in the shows. Many movie stars and radio personalities attended and Robert L. Ripley broadcasted the show in 1939 as a “Believe It or Not” feature. The National Air Carnival became such a spectacular that reporters from major newspapers such as New York Times, Kansas City Star and the Chicago-Sun-times came to Birmingham to cover the event. Mr. Acker managed this show as a hobby in addition to his regular duties. As a result of his success in the National Air Carnivals, Mr. Acker was asked to manage other air shows in Denver, Oakland, Omaha, Rio de Janeiro, and the Newark Air Show in 1941 which drew 400,000 people in one day. Steadman Acker was instrumental in the formation of the Birmingham Aero Club which is still active today. He served as president of the Aero Club in 1931-32 and again in 1935-36. In later years he was president of the Elks, the Birmingham Civitan Club, the Birmingham Traffic and Transportation Club, and president of the Inter-Club Council. Mr. Acker served as aviation consultant to several cities and state and was associate editor for several aviation publications.
He was listed in “America’s Young Men”, “Who’s Who in Alabama”, “A Book of the South”, “Who’s Who in Transportation and Communications”, “The Southerner”, and received full page recognition in “American Magazine.” In 1944, Steadman Acker received the trophy as Birmingham’s “Man of the Year.” The award was presented by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker who said “No other citizen has carried the name of Birmingham more to all corners of the nation than Steadman Acker.”
It is because of his ability to foresee the future possibilities of commercial aviation, and his endless work in the promotion of aviation that Steadman Acker was inducted into the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame.
ALABAMA AVIATION HALL OF FAME