1929: “A Very Interesting Program of Entertainment” Marks the Opening of an Airport in Tennessee

June 14, 1929

Memphis Municipal Airport was officially dedicated in Memphis. The genesis of the facility took place two years earlier, when Memphis Mayor Watkins Overton created an airport planning commission. One of the commission’s key tasks involved selecting Ward Farm, a 200-acre (81-hectare) tract located a little over seven miles (11 kilometers) from downtown Memphis, as the site for the new airport. 

Memphis Municipal Airport, at the time of its opening on a late-spring Friday, consisted of three hangars and an unpaved runway. “A very interesting program of entertainment was successfully carried out by the officials of the Memphis Chamber of Commerce,” reported the U.S. War Department’s Air Corps News Letter in its article on the dedication of the airport. 

This article likewise noted that the festivities surrounding the dedication were spread throughout the weekend and featured flyovers of military airplanes from not only Tennessee but also Texas, Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Florida. There were at total of 125 airplanes – both military and civilian –performing celebratory flyovers in the skies above the new airport during its inaugural weekend.  

This airport has grown significantly in the decades since. The facility was renamed Memphis Metropolitan Airport in 1963; six years later, that name was changed to Memphis International Airport to reflect the facility’s ever-expanding status as both a point of origin and entry point for passengers and cargo on a global scale. (The above photo of the airport was taken sometime around 1970.)

Another milestone for Memphis International Airport occurred in 1973, when the recently established Federal Express moved to Tennessee’s largest city and opened a vast package-sorting complex at the airport. Fed-Ex’s around-the-clock processing operations proved instrumental in making Memphis International Airport the world’s busiest cargo airport between 1993 and 2009. Hong Kong International Airport subsequently held that global record until 2020, when Memphis International Airport – benefitting from a notable surge in ecommerce that was due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and related stay-at-home restrictions – regained the top position in that category.

Photo Credit: Ethan from Scottsdale (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)

For more information on Memphis International Airport (originally known as Memphis Municipal Airport) is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memphis_International_Airport

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