Naming the Birddog – Jack Swayze, Cessna Employee
On a bright sunny day in September of 1951, Jack E. Swayze was proclaimed the winner of the Cessna L-19 naming contest. His winning entry was emblazoned on the nose of the L-19 that shared the podium with Jack, General Mark Clark, Duane Wallace and a host of other dignitaries that came together to celebrate the naming of the BIRDDOG.
Jack received $200 in cash and a one-week paid vacation for his winning entry. A company pilot flew Jack and his wife Alice in a Cessna 195 to Chicago for a visit with family and friends. A week later they were picked up at the airport and flown back to Wichita.
Jack retired from Cessna almost forty years later as a photographer. His love of photography carried over into a professional photography business in the Wichita area.
Jack suffer a debilitating stroke in the mid 1990’s and was confined to a walking board and a wheel chair. Jack honored the attending members of the Birddog’s 50th Anniversary celebration, during July 2000, with a visit at the Cessna sponsored luncheon.
On May 24, 2001 Jack A. Swayze passed away at the age of 73. His wife Alice; sons Jack, Allen and Mark; daughter Sharon; his sister Joyce; and six grandchildren survive him.
During the research portion for my book I had the privilege of interviewing Jack and Alice at their home in Wichita. Jack related a story to me that held special meaning for him over the years. Jack’s job at Cessna took him all over the factory and during his walks from one place to another he would pass his friends working on another Cessna airplane, and they would call out to him, “Hi Birddog.” Jack’s face would break out in a big smile as he returned the greeting and this quiet unassuming, almost bashful man would fondly remember how he got his nickname.
Life on earth passes all to quickly for all of us, and part of our history with the Birddog passed on this week. The next time you go out and fly your Birddog spend a couple minutes thinking about how your L-19 got its name and the kind, gentle, man who gave our favorite aircraft its name…..BIRDDOG.
God bless you Jack.