Remembering My Father on His Day

Remembering my father, Jack Wyatt Hudson. He was born January 21, 1920 in San Antonio, TX. His father Oscar Hudson, an engineer from Delaware, and his mother Ruth Morley Hudson, a patent-medicine heiress, from Austin, TX. He had two brothers, one older, Morley, and one younger, Howard.

While a part of the Corps at Texas A&M, he learned to fly, though this first loves were horses and ranching. He served as a B-24 captain in World War II flying out of Italy over Eastern Europe. After the war, he met and married my mother Mildred ‘Emmie’ Deal (still living) in Dallas. Dad signed up as a pilot for Braniff and flew out of Denver where I was born.

As a child during the Depression, he wanted a secure future so he quit Braniff and joined the FAA. This took our family, including my older sister Ruth, to Kansas City, then Minneapolis, Massapequa, Washington DC, and finally, Ft. Worth Texas where he served as Associate Regional Southwest Administrator, the highest rank available to a non-political appointee. He served with distinction, and at his retirement dinner the head of the FAA described him as “one of the few perfect pilots” left in the nation.

He retired to golf, his boat(s), and watching the stock market. By then my younger sister, Liz, had been born so he also had to try keeping her out of trouble. When Liz went to the University of Texas, Dad and Mom moved from our home on Rowan Dr. in Ft. Worth to a condo on the beach in Ft. Pierce, Florida.

They enjoyed their retirement years there, but were interrupted by a request from the FAA for Dad to lead a worldwide investigation of Pan American Airlines after three of its fully-loaded planes hit volcanic mountains in the Pacific killing everyone aboard. Dad and his hand-picked staff few every Pan Am route and interviewed every pilot over the following year.

The findings of ‘The Hudson Report’? Massive pilot error due to substandard training throughout the airline. See William Norris, ‘Willful Misconduct: The Tragic Story Pan American Flight 606’ 2020, quoted below). I witnessed Dad being threatened by an inspector at the Newark airport, “We all have skeletons in our closet, Jack.” He was threatening the wrong guy. Nothing scared or deterred this man who flew Liberator missions over Europe and never lost a man.

Back in Florida, Mom and Dad while in Florida enjoyed boating up the inter-coastal to Maine where they docked their motor-sailor and enjoyed the cool evenings and moderate days. They eventually grew tired of Florida and moved to northern Houston near the great Champions Golf Club where Jack Burke, Jr. still reigned.

Dad played Champions while my mother ‘antiqued’ often finding rare glass. My newly-married sister Liz and her husband scratch-golfer Dr. Bill Decker now lived in Houston with two young children, Will and Katie. My sister Ruth lived in Katy nearby Houston with her two girls, Jennifer and Cele (Lucile) who both married and had children of their own. I was the only member of the family not assembled in Houston, living in Fairfax, VA, with regular trips to see all of them.

In 1999, Dad and I finally won the golf tournament in Rockport, Maine we had played regularly over the years. But a few months later, he was in the hospital with congestive heart failure. As it turns out, his heart had been pumping less the 50% while he parred the last three holes to secure our win. He died peacefully on November 2, 1999 at the age of 79 and was buried in the Morley Family plot at Oakwood Cemetery in Austin. I am 72 now, and all my life I have struggled with his immense presence in my DNA but learning only later in life to embrace his toughness, courage, and honesty.

From William Norris, Willful Misconduct: The Tragic Story of Pan American Flight 806, CamCat Perspectives, 2020:

“The name of Hudson had already become almost legendary to those most closely involved [in the investigation of Pan American]. He was a former bomber pilot who had learned to fly while at college and had gone on to see combat in England and Italy during World War II. On release from the United States Air Force USAF) he had served with Braniff International Airlines as a co-pilot for three years and then had become an air carrier inspector for the Civil Aeronautics Administrator (CAA) in 1948. From then until his retirement in 1975, he had served continuously with the CAA and FAA. He held an Air Transport’s License, which included a rating for the Boeing 707.”

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