May 29, 1921 - September 1, 2014
Downing, Sr., LTC. Hollis Rex Ret. USAF
5/29/1921 – 9/1/2014
Hal was born in Arkansas City, Kansas, but grew up in Oklahoma City. After graduating from Central H.S. in 1938, his interest in airplanes drew him to train and then work as a mechanic in final aircraft assembly at North American Aviation in California prior to his joining the Army Air Corps as a Cadet in June, 1942. He graduated as a flight test and maintenance officer in 1943 at Sedalia Army Air Base in Missouri. His passion was always flying.
By 1952, he headed the engineering section of the Acceptance Branch for B-47’s Stratojet for the USAF. Around July, 1954, he flew the first acceptance test of the first B-52 to be delivered to the Air Force. He was the first pilot to land a Seattle built B-52 Stratofortress at McConnell Air Force Base’s new 12,000 foot runway. He also test flew the last Seattle produced B-52 to be added to the Air Force inventory. In May, 1966, Major Downing, OCAMA’s Chief, Flight Test branch, was recognized by the Strategic Air Command for his outstanding flight record. He is the only pilot not assigned to SAC to receive the 2,000 flight hour Award in the B-52. In addition to his B-52 hours, he had over 1000 hours in B-47 aircraft and over 800 hours in KC-135 as of May, 1966.
During his career, he flew over 40 different aircrafts including the B-47, B-52, KC-135 and finally the C-130. His last assignment was at Edwards AFB in aerial recovery. In May of 1974 several months before Hal would retire, he earned his Bachelor of Arts Social Science Degree from Chapman University. He was truly a life-long learner who continued his studies on a variety of topics that drew his interest. Finally, after 32 years of service to his country, he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and relocated to San Antonio, TX where he had a very successful 28 year real estate career. As a broker, he formed his own company, Circle D Realty, and enjoyed working with Estelle, his wife, selling real estate. They were also members for many years of the San Pedro Presbyterian Church.
Hal was an avid athlete. In the early 1940’s, he was scouted as a 1st baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, but he turned down the offer to focus on raising his baby son and pursuing his AF career. He continued to enjoy sports as a hobby and loved to play golf, baseball, softball, and bowl in addition to shooting pool.
Hal will always be remembered as a kind and gentle man who smiled and shared his heart-warming laugh often. He was dedicated to his Lord Jesus Christ, his wife, family, and friends. His common response when asked, “How are you?” was always, “I’ve never been better.” We know he is in heaven with Jesus and is filled with more joy than we can imagine. To quote from John Gillespie Magee Jr.’s poem, Hal has “slipped the surly bonds of earth…..and touched the face of God.”
Hal is survived by Estelle, his loving wife of 72 years; his son, Rex, and daughters, Sue and Jan; his daughter-in-law, Cheryl, and son-in-law, David; his five grandchildren, Carmen, Amy, Jenny, Garrett, and Brenda; his three grandchildren-in-law, Chris, Tom, and Stefanie; and his four great-grandchildren, Caitlyn, Andrew, Brandon, and Maddie.
A memorial service with USAF Honor Guard was held at Dallas Ft. Worth National Cemetery on Friday, September 12, 2014. Reverend Calvin Reynolds officiated after the military honors were given. In lieu of flowers, donations to VITAS Hospice, 8585 N. Stemmons Fwy, St. 200 South Tower, Dallas, TX 75247 are greatly appreciated.
Arrangements are under the direction of
ARIA Cremation Service and Funeral Home
19310 Preston Road
Dallas, Texas 75252
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