Established in 1991, the South Carolina Aviation Hall of Fame honors pioneers and leaders in the aviation industry who have made significant contributions to the development, advancement or promotion of aviation and have close ties to the State of South Carolina.
Aviation Hall of Fame Criteria
It is not necessary to have a Hall of Fame or Aviator of the Year inductee every year. Up to three nominees for the SCAA Hall of Fame honorees can be inducted each year and one Aviator of the Year. The individual must be of good character. The individual’s contribution to aviation must be substantial and performed with a high degree of excellence, above and beyond the performance of one’s job or political position. The individual’s contribution may be a single gallant event or achievement over time that has made a lasting impact on aviation. A single gallant event will be defined as an event, which was brave, spirited and honorable. Examples are William Farrow and Ronald McNair.
Nominees shall be reviewed by the appropriate FAA or DOA officials to ensure there are no concerns or reasons why the person should not be nominated. Nominations shall expire after the first consideration and must be resubmitted for future consideration. The individual nominated must have been born in South Carolina and made their contribution to aviation in this state or elsewhere; OR have been a native of another state and made their contribution to aviation in South Carolina. Nominations must include verifiable documentation of the individual’s contribution to aviation to include the following: A biographical resume (as detailed as possible), documentation, clippings, citations, and awards regarding the contribution to aviation. No consideration will be given to any information other than that submitted with the nomination package. Aviation Hall of Fame committee members shall only consider information submitted in the written nomination package. No other information supplied by anyone to the Aviation Hall of Fame committee members or to SCAA board members will be considered.Hall of Fame Nomination Form Hall of Fame Video
Aviator of the Year Criteria
In addition to the above: The Aviator of the Year must be a living person. The nominee should be a true aviator (pilot or flight crew member). The nominee’s accomplishment in aviation should be verifiable and attached to the application. The nominee should have achievements above and beyond a normal pilot. All Nominees shall: Have demonstrated ethical conduct and responsibility toward associates in the industry and community. Have had substantial influence in promoting and preserving the state’s aviation industry. Have contributed to the positive image of South Carolina as viewed from the state and national level. Maintained a high level of respect within the state’s aviation community for service, performance and public service.
South Carolina Aviation Hall of Fame license tags are now available for inductees.
All South Carolina Aviation Hall of Fame inductees are eligible to apply for the license tag. If you would like to purchase a license tag you will need to complete the MV-95 application and send it to the SCDMV to PO Box 1498, Blythewood SC 29016-0008. There is no additional registration fee from the association for the license tags.
If you desire to order more than one tag, please duplicate the application form and complete one form for each tag. For your first tag call SCAA headquarters to get a vehicle plate number to include on the MV-95 application form. This is what will be printed on your license tag. If you choose to order multiple tags you will need to contact association headquarters at 1-877-359-7222 to receive another number for the second license tag. You will need to include a letter along with your application from the association that verifies that you are a member of the SC Aviation Hall of Fame. If you have any questions on the process please call SCAA headquarters at 1-877-359-7222.Download MV-95 form
SCAA created an traveling Hall of Fame display, if you would like to display this exhibit at your airport for 3 months, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Carolina Aviation Hall of Fame Inductees:
1993 Jim Hamilton’s military career includes service as an artillery officer, aviator and paratrooper in the U.S. Army. He was appointed to three four-year terms on the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission and was elected chairman twice. Hamilton served two terms as president of the South Carolina Aviation Trades Association. He was elected Governor and Key Man of the Columbia Hangar “Quiet Birdmen.” Hamilton organized and chaired Aviation Weekends for Charity. In 1974 he founded the Jamil Flying Fezzes, a charitable flying group that transports children to Shrine Hospitals, serving as its first Commander and continuing as a mercy flight pilot. The founder-owner of Midlands Aviation Corporation, he has served as the Columbia-Owens Downtown Airport Operator for more than 30 years. He holds a commercial pilot certificate with instrument, helicopter, single and multi engine land, and single engine sea, ratings and a multiengine and instrument flight instructor certificate. He has been a member of the SC Board for Mental Retardation and the Babcock Center Board, he received the Order of the Palmetto and the Shrine Bowl of The Carolinas Walt Disney awards. Jim Hamilton Blvd. in Columbia was named in his honor. In 1993, he was named the South Carolina Aviator of the Year. From Lowly Beginning, Columbia Company Has Taken To The Skies By RON WENZELL Staff Writer January 11, 1982 Midlands Aviation Corp. is a dream come true for its president, Jimmie L. (Jim) Hamilton. The aircraft sales and service business at Columbia’s Owens Field celebrated its 20th anniversary Dec. 10 (1981) From the time he left the military in 1958 to take a job as a flight instructor in Columbia “I dreamed of having my own business,” Hamilton said. His first civilian flying job was with Aircraft Sales and Service at Metropolitan Airport. In addition to flying lessons, “I pumped gas and did whatever else needed doing.” He was an Army pilot from 1949-58 flying spotter planes. He had joined the army right out of high school and served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division. He wanted to go to infantry officer candidate school, but was sent instead to artillery OCS at Fort Sill, Okla. for flight training. His last duty station was Fort Bragg, N.C. In running Midlands Aviation he has had a knack for doing the right things at the right time and place, Hamilton said. He started in a. one-room office in Five Points in 1962. His original partners were Lawrence Savage, a University of South Carolina school of business professor, and Columbia businessman Harold Flinsch. They provided the business know-how while Hamilton supplied the flying expertise. Savage and Flinsch are no longer associated with the business. Hamilton landed the Cessna franchise but he had to pay to keep his airplanes at Owens Field, and when they needed servicing they had to be flown to Aiken. “It was a real pain, but we didn’t have any choice,” he said. Hamilton got his first real break when he sold the 50,000th airplane manufactured by Cessna. The sale (the buyer was Columbia realtor Bill Hawley) generated a lot of publicity for the new concern. “We got our pictures in all the flying publications.” Hamilton moved the business to Owens Field in 1964, operating out of a house trailer and installing some fuel tanks. He...read more
1992 A graduate of the Citadel, John Hamilton served as a lieutenant with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division in Columbia. Governor John C. West named him director of the state Aeronautics Commission in 1971, a position he held for nineteen years. As director, he was instrumental in obtaining more than $18 million in bonds for airport improvement projects. He helped establish state-owned airports into independent city/county authorities, and founded the South Carolina Annual Airports Conference. He secured funding for the headquarters of Civil Air Patrol Wing, and established the Commission’s fleet of seven aircraft. Hamilton also directed the building of the state Aeronautics headquarters and the Wilder Hanger Facility. He served as an officer for the National Association of State Aviation...read more
2010 Representative Robert “Bobby” Harrell, originally elected to the legislature in 1992, has a long track record as a representative for the people. Harrell was elected Speaker of the House in 2005 and at the time of his induction he had served six consecutive years in that position. Through the years, his love of aviation has grown, and he has supported the aviation industry in South Carolina. His contributions to the State Aeronautics Division, Aeronautics Commission, flight safety, airports, and aviation industry will make a lasting impact on aviation in South Carolina. His leadership and determination was key to reestablishing the Aeronautic Commission, putting jet fuel tax in the aviation trust fund, passing legislation to allow counties to reduce the aircraft property tax assessment and obtaining $500,000 in annual recurring funds for South Carolina airports. He also made available $5 million in a one time lump sum to match federal and local funds for eligible airport projects with the Aeronautics Commission having distribution approval authority. Harrell was instrumental in recruiting Boeing Aircraft to locate the Dreamliner production facility in South Carolina. Boeing will provide positive long-term benefits for the state’s economy and will enhance aviation’s economic impact on our state. Harrell was also successful in raising funds to provide air transportation for South Carolina National Guard soldiers of the 218th Brigade. This allowed them to come home during their leave before deploying to Afghanistan. When he became interested in aviation, he pursued and earned a commercial pilot’s license with instrument rating in record time. He pilots his Cirrus SR 22 regularly and is dedicated to flight safety, maintaining his personal pilot proficiency, and his personal minimums are higher than those set by the...read more
Thomas Patterson “Pat” Hartness Thomas Patterson “Pat” Hartness was born in Greenville June 13, 1941. He became involved with aviation at the early age of seven, when he first flew control line aircraft and then free flight model aircraft. Aviation has deep roots in his family, with his mother and his father (Tom and Edna) flying with the Civil Air Patrol. His brother Robert Garland and his son Sean are also pilots. Pat’s first full scale homebuilt was a Volksplane he built in 1971. His personal aircrafts include: The Volksplane, J-3 Cub, BT-13, Stearman, Spartan Executive, an Ultralight, P-51 Mustang and an AirCam. In 1997, Pat purchased property in Woodruff SC and started sculpting Triple Tree Aerodrome. Triple Tree now accommodates thousands of flying enthusiasts each year, not only from South Carolina but nationally and internationally. Thousands of pilots and aircraft have been a part of the Triple Tree Flying experience. Close to 1000 aircraft and many thousands of “operations” are counted in a single year. The “Joe Nail” remote control aircraft event is held here every year and is the world’s largest giant scale remote control event. The Academy of Model Aeronautics presented Pat with the President’s Award for his leadership and named Triple Tree Aerodrome an Outstanding Flying Field. Pat’s dream of an education center where both children and old timers can continue learning about aviation is finished, and a restoration center is in place where aircraft will live to Fly again. Without question, Pat’s goal has always been “to ignite and expand the passion for aviation,” and he lives by those words today....read more
1995 As a small boy growing up in Camden and Greenwood, Bill Hawkins developed a deep love for airplanes and learned to identify the type of plane by the sound of its engine. In 1946, he joined the Army and was sent to Japan, returning home in December 1947. In 1952, he joined the Civil Air Patrol, and he began taking flying lessons at Camden Airport in 1958. He received his license in 40 hours and bought his first airplane in 1973. Hawkins served as president of the South Carolina Breakfast Club for 10 years and served as the organization’s historian. He became FBO-Manager of Camden Airport in 1976 and was appointed Airport Manager in 1990. Hawkins is a charter member of the South Carolina Aviation Association, serving on its board for four years. A long-time member and former president of EAA Chapter 3, he was an active member of the QBs. Since the mid-1970s, Hawkins coordinated the Camden Fall...read more
1995 In 1939, Caroline Etheredge Hembel was one of three women accepted for the Civilian Pilot Training Program at the University of South Carolina. The only woman to complete the Program, she was the first woman in the 11 Southeastern states to solo and receive a pilot’s license. In 1940, she received her commercial pilot’s license, and she became an officer in the Ninety Nines. The South Carolina Aeronautics Commissions named Hembel “Miss South Carolina Aviation.” In 1941, she began training Navy V-5 aviation cadets. In 1942, she became a charter member of the Columbia Chapter of the National Aeronautic Association. In 1943, she was designated for membership in Women’s Auxiliary Service Pilots. She received a special pilot’s license and took part in several All Women Transcontinental Air Races. In 1962, Hembel was instrumental in bringing Hughes Helicopter Company’s dealership to Saluda. Hembel has been a pioneer as a female pilot, a pilot instructor and an officer in the Ninety Nines. She has made a tremendous difference in the history of aviation in South Carolina and was named South Carolina Aviator of the Year in 1995. Greenville NewsPaper Article: SALUDA Caroline Etheredge Hembel, a pioneer aviator, devoted wife, and beloved matriarch of her family, died Monday, Jan. 22, 2001, at her home in Saluda. Mrs. Hembel blazed the trail for women in aviation, helped her husband introduce frozen foods to Saluda County, supported him in bringing the helicopter industry to South Carolina, and was the heart and nerve center of her family. In 1995 the South Carolina Aviation Association inducted her intothe South Carolina Aviation Hall of Fame and named her the 1995 South Carolina Aviator of the Year for her contributions to aviation over her 55-year career. In 1939, she was one of three women accepted for the Civilian Pilot Training Program at the University of South Carolina, and the only woman to complete this Program. She became the first woman in the eleven Southeastern states to solo and receive her pilot’s license under the Program. She received her commercial pilot’s license in 1940. In 1941 she became an officer in the Ninety Nines, the international organization of women pilots (founded by Amelia Earhart). That same year she was chosen “Miss South Carolina Aviation” and became an ambassador for the world of aviation. In 1941 she completed an instructor’s course and began training Navy V-5 aviation cadets, a preparation for World War 11. In 1943 she became a charter member of the Columbia Chapter of the National Aeronautics Association and was designated for membership in the Women’s Auxiliary Service Pilots. She received her special racing pilot’s license and took part in several All Western Transcontinental Air Races. In 1963, she was involved in the promotion of the issuing of the Amelia Earhart postage stamp. At the Civilian Pilot Training Program school during the war Caroline Etheredge met Les Hembel, her future husband, also a pilot and instructor. In 1945, after the war, Mrs. Hembel and her husband returned to her home in Saluda. She gave up the spotlight of aviation fame to raise her children and to encourage her husband in his business ventures: Saluda Meat Center, Hembel Earth Moving, and South Carolina Helicopters. Together they built Saluda Frozen Foods, today Saluda Meat Center, a meat-processing facility which...read more
1994 Inspired by Lindberg’s flight across the Atlantic, Lester Hembel began his aviation career in 1929. He established Hembel Brothers Flying Service and “barnstormed” his way through the early thirties. In 1940, he came to South Carolina and completed the Civilian Pilot Training Program. He was then employed as a program instructor. Hembel established and taught aviation courses at the University of South Carolina. Known as ”Mr. Helicopter,” Hembel was a pioneer introducing the new method of flight to South Carolina. Appointed as a pilot examiner in 1964, he issued more than 900 pilot certificates through 1993. In 1975, he was named FAA flight instructor of the year. An outstanding civil servant, he was awarded the Bronze Plaque of South...read more
1991 A native of Laurens County, Henderson became the first black from South Carolina to obtain a Commercial Pilot’s License, Aviation Ground Instructor rating, Flight Instructor rating and instrument rating. Instrumental in breaking the race barrier in aviation, he was a pilot and Flight Instructor during World War II. He became an Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program Instructor at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He trained about 20 cadets a year who entered aerial combat in the all Black 99th Pursuit Squadron in the European Theatre World War II. He served as commissioner for Columbia Owens Downtown Airport. In 1991, he was named the South Carolina Aviator of the Year. Ernest Henderson, Sr. Flight Instructor and Educator “From plow to plane” is an appropriate way to describe Ernest Henderson’s life. “I was plowing in the cotton field when I first saw an airplane,” he recalls. “I was fascinated by that flying machine.” That encounter as a child on a small farm in Laurens County left an impression. Ten years later, he became a pilot and flight instructor. Born in Mountville in 1917, Ernest Henderson, Sr. was educated in Laurens County in a wooden schoolhouse without running water, a chalkboard or desks. The school was not an adequate facility, but that did not prevent Henderson from learning. Reflecting on his experience in the small wooden school, he says, “I was anxious to try to be the best in class.” He graduated with highest honors from Bell High School in Clinton and began undergraduate work at Hampton Institute in Virginia. There he was encouraged by the school’s president to go to Tuskegee Institute to take flying courses to qualify for the Army Air Corps. He entered Tuskegee determined to become a proficient pilot. He succeeded and joined the Army Air Corps Pilot/Flight Instructor Group. “We had the distinct privilege of flying with some people who became outstanding later on,” says Henderson. “We flew with the late General Daniel ‘Chappi’ James, Jr. , who became commander-in chief of the North American Air Defense Command, and with Lieutenant General Benjamin O. Daves. Jr., who was in command of the 99th Pursuit Squadron in Europe.” Henderson became assistant squadron commander and was one of the pioneers in making aviation a reality for African-Americans in this country. Recently, Henderson was inducted into the South Carolina Aviation Hall of Fame. Henderson later completed his bachelor of science degree in commerce at Benedict College in Columbia. He then received his master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin and has also studied at South Carolina State University, the University of South Carolina and Duke University. “A good education is one of the most important keys to success in life. Regardless of the type of home or background from which you come, you can get an education and be successful if you just set your mind to it and work hard,” he says. Henderson has worked as an educator and administrator in Richland County School District One for 21 years. He has been a classroom teacher, business manager and guidance counselor. He recently retired from the school system and now does volunteer work. “If I could go from plow to plane coming through my poorly equipped schools, you should be able to make greater accomplishments in your modern schools,”...read more
1999 Dick Hitt, a pilot, mechanic and owner of PA-20 is best known to thousands of South Carolina pilots as the “FAA’s Mr. Safety”. Dick has been the Safety Program Manager for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Columbia Flight Standards District Office (FSDO-13) since 1991. By weight of his personal leadership and example, his selfless use of off-hours and personal time to train pilots, his regional and national professional deportment of immense individual charm and friendliness and knowledge, Dick Hitt is surely one of the best among us in South Carolina General Aviation. In 1999, he was named South Carolina Aviator of the...read more
2003 Performance Is Better Than Promise! That’s the creed by which South Carolina’s own Sen. Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings has modeled his entire life of public service. Hollings has always been a champion for both South Carolina and his nation. A native of Charleston, Hollings graduated from the Citadel Military College in 1942 and immediately received a commission in the U.S. Army. He served as an officer in the North African and European Campaigns during World War II, receiving the Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons. Elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives at the age of 26, Hollings was selected by his peers as Speaker Pro Tempore during his second term, a post to which he was re-elected in 1953. Two years later, Hollings became Lieutenant Governor and in 1958, he was elected Governor. At 36, he became the youngest man in the 20th century to hold the position. He was elected to his seventh Senate term in 1998. As the ranking member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Sen. Hollings has used his seniority and vast support for aviation to secure millions of dollars in airport improvement aid. No airport in South Carolina has been untouched by Hollings’ generous efforts to develop and upgrade America’s airspace system. Using his seniority, Hollings has been a persuasive voice for airport development within the US Senate and the...read more