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William Gentry Shelton, Jr. was born May 6, 1895 at St. Louis, MO. As a 22-year old, he was called to register for the draft on June 5, 1817. His draft card is below. Jim Crow was alive and well in St. Louis at the time. If you look carefully at the diagonal printing at the lower left of this card, the text says, "If person is of African descent, tear off this corner." Some things change; some things remain the same. He was a veteran of WWI, where he served as a balloon pilot.

W.G. Shelton, Jr. Draft Card, WWI, June 5, 1917 (Source: ancestry.com)

In 1917 his employer was cited as "R.J. Sheton." This was probably a misspelling by the clerk who filled out the form. W.G. Shelton, Sr. owned a company that produced beauty shop electrical equipment. Shelton, Jr. was known to work for his father, so there's a good chance the clerk got his place of employment wrong.

Shelton was a Lambert Field, St. Louis-based pilot. He signed the Tucson Register once, on Sunday, September 9, 1928 at 4:30PM. He flew the Curtiss-Robertson Robin he identified as NC7499. He arrived solo at Tucson from what he called "Lordsbluff, AZ," remained overnight and departed westbound for Los Angeles, CA at 9:30 the next morning.

The New York Times, July 20, 1930 (Source: NYT via Woodling)


He landed among over a dozen other pilots at Tucson during their the 1928 National Air Races (NAR) Class A, cross-country event from New York to Los Angeles. The Register, pp. 58-59 exhibits all their signatures. Incidentally, there is no such place as "Lordsbluff, AZ." Rather he meant to write Lordsburg, NM, which was the official waypoint entered in the Register by all the competitors. The Aircraft Yearbook for 1929, which documented the results for the 1928 NAR, does not mention Shelton's name in any of the lists of competitors, so he may not have been competing. Rather, he might have been accompaning the racers in his role as a sales agent for the Curtiss Flying Service (see below).

W. Gentry Shelton, 1929 (Source: Forden)
W. Gentry Shelton, 1929 (Source: Forden)


The next year, in July, 1929, Shelton flew a refueling ship for the St. Louis Robin endurance crew, Dale Jackson and Forest O'Brine (not Register pilots). The New York Times (NYT) of July 20, 1929 reported their flight at right.

While Jackson and O'Brine were still in the air, Shelton and fellow pilot Joseph Hammer, set off in a similar Curtiss-Robertson Robin on their own endurance attempt. Alas, they remained aloft for only five days. Notice mention of Parks Airport Register pilot W. Currey Sanders near the bottom of the article.

A few months after his endurance attempt, Shelton placed 22nd in the 1929 Ford Reliability Tour, which was held October 5-21. Photograph, left, is from chapter 9, page 109 of this Forden REFERENCE, which documented the 1929 Tour. The Aircraft Yearbook for 1930 corroborated Shelton's place and time. During the 1929 Tour his airplane often joined up with Jackson’s or O’Brine’s in a low pass for the spectators, to show how they’d done it for the record flight.


Jefferson City Post-Tribune (MO), August 3, 1929 (Source: Woodling)
Jefferson City Post-Tribune (MO), August 3, 1929 (Source: Woodling)




The findagrave.com Web site states that Shelton, "... was one of St. Louis’ early aviation enthusiasts. In 1929, he attempted an endurance flight over Lambert-St. Louis Municipal Airport along with Joe Hammer, a mail pilot. They remained aloft for five days. The year before he suffered a broken leg in making his first parachute jump to win $200 from Frank Watts Jr. and Donaldson Lambert, who said he would be afraid to jump." I don't know when he broke his leg, but it was probably after he flew in the 1928 NAR. And his medical bills were probably greater than $200.

Near this time, as part of Jefferson Airways, Inc., a business he founded and operated, Shelton was an authorized sales agent for the Curtiss-Wright Flying Service in St. Louis. The advertisement, left, is from the Jefferson City Post-Tribune (MO), August 3, 1929. Note that Jefferson Airways is mentioned at the bottom of the ad.

The New York Times of August 3, 1930 described one route of Jefferson Airways, below.

The New York Times, August 3, 1930 (Source: NYT via Woodling)
The New York Times, August 3, 1930 (Source: NYT via Woodling)









Both directors Phillip R. Love and Harry H. Knight were Register pilots. Not surprisingly, Shelton appeared three times in the Parks Airport Register, East St. Louis, IL. Please direct your browser to the link for additional biographical information, and for citations to one of the Lockheed Vegas he flew. Although Shelton started Jefferson Airways, it lasted only a short time.

Shelton-Jones Marriage License, 1932 (Source: ancestry.com)
Shelton-Jones Marriage License, 1932 (Source: ancestry.com)


The 1930 U.S. Census placed Shelton at age 34 living in St. Louis with his wife of eight years Peggy M. (age 29). They rented their home for $110 per month. No children were listed. Shelton was employed as an "Aviator" at an "Airport." Peggy was unemployed.

His marriage to Peggy lasted less than another two years. His April 20th request for a 1932 marriage license to Helen Watts Jones is at right. I enhanced the contrast of this image in PhotoShop for clarity (still not very good). Shelton was 36; Jones was 34. It was the second marriage for both.

Indeed, the 1930 Census for Jones cited her as divorced and living with her parents along with her daughter Helen M. Jones, age 6. A family of means, Jones' father was a banker and chairman of the board of a bank, and in the household were a nurse, butler, cook and a maid.

Early in 1930, he was "busted" by the Department of Commerce for flying low over Garden City, NY. The New York Times of March 6, 1930 reported the incident, below, right.

Run-ins with the law were very unusual occurrences among Register pilots. Although, with the increasing popularity of aviation, they grumbled about losing their freedoms in the skies, they usually obeyed the regulations. Of the thousands of Register pilots, only a few others ran afoul of the law. But, not all of their illegal activities had to do with aviation. For example, rum running (Burrell Tibbs), Nazi propagandist (Laura Ingalls) and alleged murder (Jessie Keith-Miller) come to mind.


The New York Times, March 6, 1930 (Source: NYT via Woodling)
Jefferson City Post-Tribune (MO), October 25, 1930 (Source: Woodling)


The Jefferson City Post-Tribune (MO) of October 25, 1930, left, reported a visit to Jefferson Airways by Register pilot Jimmy Doolittle flying the Shell Oil Company Travel Air Mystery Ship. This is the only publication in which I've seen Doolittle referred to as the "Bad Boy of Aviation."

In January, 1932, Shelton was peripherally involved in the air tragedy that took the life of Register pilot Ruth Stewart. Stewart and Debbie Stanford were scheduled to fly Stewart's Lockheed Vega from New York City to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Shelton served as their "guide" as they flew from Pittsburgh, PA to New York to begin their journey. The flight east across the Allegheny Mountains was a hazardous one, especially given the weather conditions at the time. Please direct your browser to Stewart's biography page for the outcome of their flight. Shelton's participation was documented in the Monroe News-Star (LA) of January 7, 1932.

In 1936, Shelton and Helen sailed on the S.S. Aquatania to London, England, landing on June 18th. He was identified as a "Manufacturer," probably on a (short) business trip for his father's beauty equipment company. On July 16, 1936, on the return trip, Shelton and his wife landed at the Port of New York City on the S.S. Rex. They had departed Villefranche, France on July 8th.

As WWII approached, Shelton was again called to the draft in 1941. His WWII draft registration card is below. At this time he was employed in his father's business.

W.G. Shelton, Jr. WWII Draft Card, 1941, Front (Source: ancestry.com)

The back of his draft card, below, described him physically. At age 46 he was 5'9" tall, weighed 200 pounds, and had blue eyes, brown hair and a ruddy complexion.

W.G. Shelton, Jr. WWII Draft Card, 1941, Back (Source: ancestry.com)




Given his business trip abroad, and his employment entry on his draft registration, it appears that he had separated himself from aviation.

I could not find 1940 U.S. Census information for Gentry or Helen. It could be they were traveling again out of the country at the time and not counted.

Shelton passed away in St. Louis, December 13, 1948. His obituary is below from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), December 14, 1948. His obituary also suggests his separation from aviation.

Pilot Took Part in Endurance Flight
Over Lambert-St. Louis Field in 1929.

William Gentry Shelton Jr., one of St. Louis's most active aviation enthusiasts a decade ago, died last night at St. John's Hospital after an illness of three weeks. He was 52 years old. .

Although not an active flyer in recent -years, Mr. Shelton frequently piloted planes, here in the late '20s and '30s. In 1929 he and Joe Hammer, a mail pilot, attempted an endurance flight over Lambert-St. Louis Field. The two remained in the air for five days. The year before he suffered a broken leg in making his first parachute jump to win wagers of $200 from two friends. The jump was made from over Lambert-St. Louis Field after his friends. Frank O. Watts Jr. and Donaldson L. Lambert, said he would be afraid to jump.

Mr. Shelton was a descendent of Maj. William Gentry, a pioneer Missourian. His father was president of the W. G. Shelton Co., manufacturers of electrical beauty shop equipment. He resided at 5290 Waterman Avenue.

Surviving are his wife, Mrs. Helen Watts Shelton, and a daughter, Miss Jane Gentry Shelton. The funeral will be tomorrow at 2 p.m. from the Lupton undertaking establishment, 7233 Delmar boulevard, University City, with burial in Bellefontaine Cemetery.

His grave marker is at right. He was a young fifty-three years old.

W.G. Shelton, Jr. Headstone (Source: findagrave)











The Register

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