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Eugene Luther Vidal

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Eugene Luther Vidal

Eugene Luther Vidal
Eugene Vidal, standing, third from left, with Amelia Earhart, sitting, left
Born (1895-04-13)April 13, 1895
Madison, South Dakota
Died February 20, 1969(1969-02-20) (aged 73)
Los Angeles, California
Spouse(s) Nina Gore
(m.1922-1935; divorced)
Katharine Roberts
(m.1939-1969; his death)
Children Gore Vidal

Eugene Luther "Gene" Vidal (/vɨˈdɑːl/;[1] April 13, 1895 – February 20, 1969) was an American athlete and aviation pioneer. He was the father of author Gore Vidal.

In his obtituary, Time noted: "Eugene Vidal, 73, pioneer promoter of civil aviation and father of author Gore Vidal; in Los Angeles, Calif. Vidal starred in football at West Point and competed in the decathlon in the Antwerp Olympic Games of 1920. He later taught aviation and coached football at the academy, resigned his commission in 1926 to become assistant general manager of Transcontinental Air Transport (now TWA). From 1933 to 1937 he was Director of Air Commerce in Washington, where he organized and expanded the Government's civil aeronautics program. Later he served as a director of Northeast Airlines and as aviation adviser to the Army Chief of Staff."[2]

Life and career

Vidal was born in 1895 in Madison, South Dakota, the son of Margaret Ann (née Rewalt) and Felix L. Vidal.[3]

Vidal was a versatile athlete. At the University of South Dakota (USD) from 1913 to 1916, he was a football, basketball, baseball and track letterman. Vidal was captain of the university's 1915 football and 1916 basketball teams, leading the basketball team in scoring in 1915 and 1916, thereby assisting the university in winning an Intercollegiate Conference Title during his participation. Vidal transferred to West Point in 1916, where he became the captain of the football team.[4]

Vidal participated in the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games. He finished seventh in the decathlon at the 1920 games in Antwerp and was an assistant track coach in charge of the modern pentathlon and decathlon squads at the 1924 summer games in Paris. He was the first graduate of USD to be on an Olympic team.[5][6]

Vidal played for the American Professional Football Association's Washington Senators in 1921.

In 1922, Vidal married Nina Gore, daughter of Thomas Gore, Democratic senator from Oklahoma.[7] They divorced in 1935; she subsequently married the wealthy stockbroker Hugh D. Auchincloss.[8] In 1939, Vidal married Katharine Roberts, with whom he had two children.[9]

Vidal taught aeronautics at West Point and was one of the first United States Army Air Corps pilots. He went on to become one of the pioneers in the commercial aviation industry. From 1933 to 1937, Vidal was Director of the Commerce Department's Bureau of Air Commerce and helped found three American airlines during the 1920s and '30s; Eastern Airlines, TWA and Northeast Airlines, along with aviatrix Amelia Earhart. Vidal also formed the New York, Philadelphia and Washington Airway Corporation, an airline that offered hourly round-trip service between the cities, in 1930. Vidal experimented with a wood-resin composite process similar to Duramold that was planned to be used on the Aircraft Research BT-11. His experiments in composites with fiberglass yields a small business building trays and dinghies.[10] He was also an investor in the Boston and Maine Railroad.

It is alleged in Susan Butler's 1999 book[11] that Vidal had a romantic relationship with aviatrix Amelia Earhart, and his son Gore Vidal's cover testimonial adds credence to the story.

Later in life, Vidal served as a director of Northeast Airlines and was an aviation adviser to the Army Chief of Staff.[2]

Vidal died in 1969 in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 73.[2]





  • Butler, Susan. East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1997. ISBN 0-306-80887-0.
  • Longyard, William H. Who's Who in Aviation History: 500 Biographies. Toronto, Ontario: Elsevier Canada, 1974. ISBN 978-0-08018-205-6.
  • Vidal, Gore. Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir. New York: Vintage Books, 2007. ISBN 978-0-30727-501-1.

External links

  • magazine article, February 28, 1969
  • Olympics at Gene Vidal
  • American Heritage Center

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