February 4, 1883
Stephen Latchford, a U.S. diplomat who became one of his country’s foremost authorities on aviation law and a key influence when it came to that mode of transportation, was born in Annapolis Junction, Maryland. Perhaps Latchford’s birth in a community that owed its name to being a rail junction presaged a transportation-themed career for him, as did the fact that his father was a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad operator.
Latchford’s longtime career in federal government began in 1905 in another type of transportation environment when he started working as a clerk in the Panama Canal Zone. After completing that assignment and receiving his law degree, Latchford rose steadily through the ranks at the U.S. Department of State.
Latchford carved out for himself a niche with respect to airborne activities at a time when aviation continued to evolve dramatically and with that the need for laws applicable to its growth and development. He provided crucial leadership and guidance both domestically when it came to shaping new laws for American aircraft and on the global stage in representing the United States at various international conferences focused on that sphere of transportation.
During World War II, Latchford played an even more critical role as aviation further expanded in importance both at home and abroad. He served as a counsel to Secretary of State Cordell Hull on aviation issues during that global conflict, and was even promoted to the position of “Advisor of Air Law.” One of Latchford’s major contributions during this period entailed serving as the advisor to the U.S. delegation at the 1944 Chicago Convention, which helped define the future of aviation worldwide and resulted in the establishment of what is now the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization.
Latchford retired from the State Department in 1948. He died in Vienna, Virginia, in 1974 at the age of 91.
Photo Credit: Abmaoja (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
For more information on Stephen Latchford and his aviation legacy, please check out https://scholar.smu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3416&context=jalc