James Smith McDonnell
James Smith McDonnell (1899-1980)

Inducted - Monday, April 12, 2010
Sculptor: Sabra Tull Meyer

Where is James Smith McDonnell in the Hall of Famous Missourians?

On July 6, 1939, James S. McDonnell incorporated the McDonnell Aircraft Corp. in St. Louis, Mo. Within the next three decades, the company would become the leading producer of jet fighters and would build the first spacecraft to carry an American into orbit. By the mid-1960s, McDonnell Aircraft Corp. was the largest employer in Missouri, and in 1967, it expanded its operation by merging with the largest employer in California, the Douglas Aircraft Co.

James S. McDonnell took over as chairman and chief executive officer of the McDonnell Douglas Corp. In 1971, his nephew, Sanford N. McDonnell, became president, and James S. McDonnell was chairman of the board and chief executive officer. His nephew took over as CEO in 1972. James Smith McDonnell remained chairman of the board of directors until his death on Aug. 22, 1980.

During his career, James Smith McDonnell received numerous awards and honorary degrees. His awards included the Robert Collier Trophy, the Guggenheim Medal, Founders Medal of the National Academy of Engineering and the NASA Public Service Award. He was remembered for his many civic duties, particularly his chairmanship of the United Nations Association of the United States. In 1958, the McDonnell Aircraft Corp. was the first organization in the world to celebrate United Nations Day as a paid holiday.