yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

Lt. Harold Pickens

from the collection of Brenda Fiddler

Harold Pickens was a 1921 graduate of Lexington High School. These two articles from the Lexington Progress document the beginning and the end of his naval aviation career.

April 24, 1931

Lexington Progress

Lieut. Pickens to the “Akron”

The “Akron,” largest dirigible in the world which is to take her initial flight, starting at Akron, Ohio, some time this summer, has a picked crew of the finest aviators in government service, according to reports sent out from Washington, and it is a matter of great pride to all residents of Lexington to know that Lt. Harold Pickens is among them.  Lt. Pickens graduated from Lexington High School and entered Annapolis Academy on his points from that school without further examination, receiving his appointment through Congressman T.W. Sims.

Always a student he advanced rapidly and graduated with honors.  About two years ago he decided to take up aviation and was assigned to a government flying field in New Jersey.  He later served on the dirigible “Los Angeles,” and his success in this branch of the service is attested by the fact that he has been chosen as one of the officers of the “Akron.”

April 7, 1933

Lexington Progress

Giant Airship, “Akron,” Goes Down at Sea

Reports of the disaster causing the loss of the giant dirigible, Akron, began coming in Tuesday chiefly by radio, and by Wednesday the news was confirmed as to the deaths of the 73 members of the crew, with only four surviving members picked up by a German tanker.

Local concern was immediately manifest in Lexington because many people thought that Lieutenant Harold Pickens was still on the ship.  He was transferred some months ago, however, to a class of picked men receiving special instruction in aerial navigation.

The cause of the accident to the Akron is unknown.  A thunderstorm was raging, but the only one of her surviving officers stated that he thought the ship was not struck by lightning.  One disaster after another has followed the craft since it was launched.  Two people were injured in her trial flight and wild stories ran over the country at that time of faulty construction, communist plots and what-not later in California, she was torn from her moorings, two people killed and one young field attendant was rescued from a dangling line to which he held as the ship soared into the air.  Her original cost to the government was expensive and not a shred of wreckage remains.  The men were simply sucked down into the sea with the debris.  Of the four who escaped one died from wounds before they were brought to land.  A few hours later, a naval airship, searching for bodies, was also wrecked and two people killed from her crew.  One of the three survivors is Moody E. Erwin of Memphis, metal smith on the Akron.


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