Today, we complete our study of the Suwannee Squadron, Workman Field and Civil Air Patrol in Suwannee County.
Because of the local membership drive and hard work of the members, Workman Field continued to operate for several years after its 1950 opening and 1951 official dedication. In 1955, the airfield property is shown in tax rolls as being part of Dr. Workman’s homestead. Aerial photographs from 1956 show the airfield, complete with at least one single-engine aircraft, still in operation. In the same year, however, Dr. Workman sold his personal aircraft to Dr. James Horton, probably the same airplane shown in the aerial photograph. In May 1956, Dr. Horton and two others were flying the recently-purchased aircraft to Valdosta to have it checked out when they crashed shortly after takeoff from Workman Field. All three were seriously injured in the crash from the impact and resulting fire.
Later the same year, Dr. Workman sold the Workman Field property to Arlie K. Townsend, who soon transferred it to others. Although a 1960 map still lists the airfield, it is probable that it remained such in name only. A 1963 aerial photograph shows the property planted in trees, with practically no indication of the airfield or buildings that had been dedicated with such fanfare only a dozen years before. Today the property is part of a subdivision, with scattered homes amongst the trees. There is little to no evidence of the historic airfield that was there less than 70 years ago.
The Suwannee Squadron itself appears to have continued to operate for only a few short years. Although I have not been able to find a smoking gun as to when the Suwannee Squadron disbanded (I doubt it would have made the newspapers or local records in any event), it was still active a year after the dedication of Workman Field. In 1952, about the time that Randy Mai became Civil Defense Administrator for Suwannee County, new officers were appointed to the Squadron. Captain Claude J. Hackney was the commanding officer, Captain Mary V. Tuttle was adjutant, Lieutenant Nicky Tsacrios was executive officer and Lieutenant Norman Protsman was the communications officer. Although there were several openings to be filled in the squadron, there were enough members to also have a dedicated Nurses’ Flight. At the time, regular flights were held each Sunday afternoon at Workman Field. Over the next couple of years, there were some articles regarding the unit, or of members who had joined the Air Force or other branches of the Armed Forces. However, these articles dried up by the mid-1950s (unless I missed them). The Suwannee Squadron appears to have simply faded away into history.
Another local Civil Air Patrol squadron, the Suwannee Valley Composite Squadron (FL-455), was organized in or around 2006 in Live Oak. It was commanded by Grant W. Meadows Jr., with Mark and Cindy Sweitzer as deputy commanders, and the squadron met at the Suwannee County Airport. In April and May 2007, the unit was one of several in the region to assist with firefighting efforts during the huge fires that ravaged South Georgia and North Florida and threatened Lake City, among other places. The squadron was recommended for a Unit Citation due to their untiring efforts to assist in the work to fight the fires, which burned 580,000 acres over seven weeks.
The Suwannee Valley Composite Squadron continued to operate from the Suwannee County Airport under Captain Meadows for several years. By 2011, however, the unit was known as the Suwannee Valley Cadet Squadron under the command of Lieutenant Marie Montgomery of Lake City. It appears that the group merged with the Lake City Cadet Squadron. Like its predecessor, the Suwannee Squadron, the Suwannee Valley Cadet Squadron no longer exists.
Workman Field and its part in Suwannee County and national Civil Air Patrol history has been all but forgotten. Let us remember and honor those who have served the country and their community.
Join me next week for more history.
Eric Musgrove can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386-362-0564.