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Adventurous and daring, Grace Morrison was our Amelia Earhart

She was the Amelia Earhart of Palm Beach County: Adventuresome and daring, with a tragic end to her short life.

Grace Morrison — secretary to a glamorous Palm Beach architect and weekend flier — championed the creation of a Palm Beach County airport in the 1930s, when the forerunner of today’s international airport was a small strip with a windsock called Lightbown Municipal Airport.

Flying was so new to Palm Beach County that the first landing marker and aerial beacon went up in 1929.

Morrison began pressing to improve the primitive facility — first contacting local officials, and when that failed, the federal government.

On Dec. 13, 1932, John Demarest of Hypoluxo sold 440 acres of land to an association formed to build a new air terminal. Six weeks later, runways were staked out. The total cost of the “modern” airport was estimated at $180,000.

“When completed, the new airport will be one of the best in the entire south,” Palm Beach Life magazine reported on Jan. 28, 1936.

On Dec. 19, 1936, the airfield was dedicated. It had expanded to 598 acres and was paid for by the county, the state and two federal agencies.

The airport was dubbed Morrison Field. But Grace Morrison was not there.

She had been killed just months earlier, on Sept. 5, near Titusville, while driving her brother to college.

The first plane to depart, an Eastern Airlines DC-2, carried 14 passengers. The first official landing at the airport carried three men, among them Grace Morrison’s boss, architect Maurice Fatio.

– Eliot Kleinberg, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

gracemorrison2
Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County

What was the first plane to fly over Palm Beach County? That happened in 1911, long before there was an airstrip here. The plane took off from what is now Currie Park.

For more on Palm Beach County history, get your copy of Palm Beach County at 100: Our History, Our Home.

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Posted in Flashback blog and Palm Beach County at 100 October 29, 2009 at 4:09 pm.

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