Making Goodfellow Part II: The Telegram

The Great Depression left more than a few cities across the United States eager for the economic stimulation that came with rearmament and proximity to a military installation.  Selma, Alabama, for example, provided nearly 2,000 acres for the pilot school that would become Craig Air Force Base.  Above, San Angelo’s offer was no less generous. (Courtesy photo)

The Great Depression left more than a few cities across the United States eager for the economic stimulation that came with rearmament and proximity to a military installation. Selma, Alabama, for example, provided nearly 2,000 acres for the pilot school that would become Craig Air Force Base. Above, San Angelo’s offer was no less generous. (Courtesy photo)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The economic impact of Goodfellow Air Force Base for San Angelo and the surrounding region has been enormous, exceeding $300 million in fiscal year 2015 alone. For this, the credit goes to Culberson Deal and Robert Carr.

In May 1940, Deal and Carr were members of the San Angelo Board of City Development, today’s Chamber of Commerce. Deal was the manager, and had been for some time. Carr, a World War I era veteran and Army Air Corps reservist, was an oil operator by trade but led the Board’s Aviation Committee. It was through the contacts he maintained as an Air Corps reservist that Carr learned that the massive buildup of American air power would bring with it four new airfields for the training of pilots. The site committee also charged to identify suitable locations for the new pilot schools.

For Deal and Carr, this was an unmistakable opportunity for city development and a way to support the national defense. With the backing of city officials, and using his Army contacts in San Antonio, Carr arranged for him and Deal to meet with members of the site committee on May 20. Carrying some maps and aerial photography of potential landing fields, and armed with a list of good things to say about San Angelo, Deal and Carr presented their case.

At the same time, Houston Harte, San Angelo Evening Standard publisher, today’s Standard Times, contacted his good friend in Washington, “Cactus Jack” Garner, to discuss the offer. “It took some doing in Washington to get the site in San Angelo designated,” Harte recalled years later. But Garner, his friend, was a fellow Texan hailing from Ulvade. He was also the United States Vice President.

Later, Deal would insist that no political strings had been pulled, by Harte or by anyone else.

When Carr and Deal returned from their meeting in San Antonio, they reported to the Board of City Development that the Air Corps possessed ample funds for building new pilot schools, but not so much for buying the land on which to build them. It would boost San Angelo’s chances considerably if the city were to provide that land, they said. The Board agreed. Following a noontime meeting of more than 50 San Angelo businessmen on June 8, the city sent the Air Corps a telegram offering a lease on 640 acres at $1 per year. The also city would provide hookups for natural gas, electricity, telephone, water and sewage. It would install beacon and boundary lights, gas storage tanks, and even a hangar. It would also build a railroad spur, a critical consideration for moving construction materials quickly and economically to the site.

On June 21, the Air Corps announced that it had accepted San Angelo’s offer. For the city, all that remained was to make good on its promise. Setting July 16 as election day, the city asked its voters to approve a bond sale of up to $300,000 to finance the land purchase plus the other enticements. It was not even close. When the result was tallied, 3,248 citizens had voted in favor of the proposal. Only 19 had voted against it.

San Angelo had its airfield.