Lou Holland

Author: 

In the 1920s, air travel was new and uncertain. City booster Lou Holland, one of the first to see its possibilities, became the "Father of Kansas City Aviation" when he helped establish Kansas City's first municipal airport.

Lou Holland
Lou Holland. Courtesy of the Missouri Valley Special Collections.

Lou Holland came from New York to Kansas City in 1902 to work for a printing and engraving company, but later started his own firm. After becoming president of the Chamber of Commerce in 1925, Holland strove to enhance the city's industrial growth. He believed that air transportation was vital to industry and persuaded a contract carrier to set up an airmail route.

In May 1926, National Air Transport made its first local airmail run from Richards Field, 11 miles southeast of the city limits. Shortly afterward, the government declared Richards Field—and the city's 40 other tiny airfields—unsuitable for airmail flights. Holland proposed an overgrown field just north of the Hannibal Bridge and downtown as an ideally situated airport site. City Manager Henry F. McElroy scoffed, insisting that aviation was a fad. After months of argument and persuasion, Holland not only changed McElroy's mind, but made him an airport booster.

On August 17, 1927, more than 10,000 Kansas Citians mobbed the new airport to see air hero Charles Lindbergh land his "Spirit of St. Louis" and dedicate the airfield. Holland knew that Kansas City also needed passenger flights to become a true air center. He played a key role in persuading Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) to establish its headquarters here. TAT (later TWA), made its first coast-to-coast flight via Kansas City in 1929. More than a dozen other passenger lines eventually operated out of the airport.

By 1972 Municipal Airport had become too small for jet travel and Kansas City International became the major airport. Although now used mostly for business aviation, the pioneering airport served as a bustling air hub for decades, thanks to the vision and initiative of Lou Holland.

Acknowledgement: 

A version of this article previously appeared at http://www.kchistory.org/content/biography-lou-holland-1878-1960-advocat...

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