(1923-2013) Enshrined November 14, 2009
Born March 7, 1923 in McCaulley, Texas Bill Pickron worked in a cotton gin at night while in high school. One of his hobbies was building model airplanes. He joined the Army as a Private in March 1941 and began night school. After taking a competitive exam and was selected for pilot training as an Enlisted Pilot. Pickron earned his wings as a S/Sgt. because he had not yet reached 21 years of age as required to become a Commissioned Officer. The regulations later changed and he was properly commissioned. During WWII he served as a Fighter Pilot in both the European and Pacific theaters. He flew the P-39, P-40 P-47, P-51 and P-38. Later as Squadron Commander in Raimstein, Germany he flew the F-84 and F-86. Pickron also flew the F-104 as a pilot and flight instructor for the Italian Air Force in Rome and also as Air Force advisor to the Tennessee Air National Guard in Knoxville. After WWII, as a member of the USAF Instrument Pilot Instructor School (IPIS), he specialized in teaching precision instrument flying to USAF and NATO pilots. When the Air Force received jet aircraft in 1949, Pickron conducted flight tests and collaborated in writing the first Air Force Manual on jet instrument flight procedures. His flight tests included over 200 thunderstorm penetrations. Col. Pickron retired from the Air Force in 1967 and became the State of Tennessee’s first Chief Pilot, hired by Governor Frank Clement to fly the Governor and state officials. He was the only pilot flying a used Aero Commander for incoming Governor Buford Ellington and was also the pilot for Governors Winfield Dunn and Ray Blanton. Pickron is a Command Pilot with over 13,000 hours in over fifty aircraft with Type Ratings in the B-25, DC-3, Boeing 377 and Lear Jet 24. His many awards include four Air Medals, two Presidential Unit Citations, the Tennessee National Guard Distinguished Service Award, and a Commendation from the Italian Air Force. While a state pilot Col. Pickron answered many calls to serve Tennesseans in time of need. He flew missions in extreme weather to deliver life-saving human organs for transplant.
To learn more, visit: www.tnairmuseum.com