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Leroy R. Grumman

January 4, 1895 October 4, 1982

Founder of the Grumman Corporation

"We always tried to do a solid job."

Son of George Tyson Grumman, a carriage shop owner, Leroy Randle 'Roy' Grumman was born in Huntington, New York on January 4, 1895. Raised on Long Island, an area often referred to as the "cradle of aviation," young Roy took an early interest in aviation and, when graduating from high school in June 1912, he chose to discuss the infant industry in his salutorian address. Retaining his interest in aircraft engineering, he then worked his way through Cornell University from which he receieved a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1916.

After graduation, Roy Grumman worked briefly for the Engineering Department of the New York Telephone Company, before enlisting in the U.S. Navy Reserve in June 1917, two months after the United States' entry into the first world war. Following a few months as machinist's mate, 2nd class, he was sent by the Navy first to Columbia University for a six-week course in the operation of petrol engines powering submarine chasers, and, after he had applied for aviation duty, to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for ground training. Learning to fly at Miami and Pensacola, Grumman graduated in September of 1918, was designated Naval Aviator No1216, and was commissioned an ensign prior to be assigned as a pilot instructor to the Naval Air Training School at Pensacola. In 1919, after completing the four month Naval Course in Aeronautical Engineering at MIT, he was transferred to the League Island Naval Yard on the Delaware River just south of Philadelphia as an acceptance test pilot for Curtiss and Navy-built flying boats and as Project Engineer for the Loening M-8 observation monoplanes about to be built in the Navy Yard.

While working at the Navy Yard, Grumman got to know the designer of the M-8, Grover Loening, and his brother Albert, and impressed them so much with his talent as an engineer and his skill as a test pilot that they offered him a job. Resigning his Naval commission in October 1920, Grumman accepted the offer and joined the Loening Aeronautical Engineering Corporation in New York where he began by test flying various types of Loening amphibians and doing some design and development on these aircraft. He quickly moved up in the Loening organization, with which he became factory manager and then general manager at a time when the firm was busy with the production of amphibians, including the OL series for the Navy, the OA series for the Army Air Service, and the Air Yacht series for private owners.

During the last years of the 1920s, after Charles Lindbergh's historic New York to Paris flight in May of 1927, led many to expect a rapid expansion in air travel and aircraft manufacturing, financiers were showing a sudden interest in the then primarily small-scale United States military industry and, seeking to gain dominance in this emerging market, started acquiring small manufacturers and merging them into larger and, it was hoped, more efficient organizations. Among the companies which fell by teh wayside as a result of this new trend was Loening which, in 1928, was bought by the banking firm of Hayden, Stone and Company, which intended to merge it with the Keystone Aircraft Corporation. In turn, control of Keystone was acquired in 1929 by a holding company, North American Aviation Inc., which went on with the merging plans and prepared to move Loening's assets to the Keystone plant in Bristol, Pennsylvania, before the end of that year. For Loening's employees, this meant either unemployment or a move to Pennsylvania. Rather than face either, Grumman and two of his colleagues - Leon A. 'Jake' Swirbul, the factory manager, and William T. Schwendler, a talented engineer and assistant plant manager - resolved to establish their own firm.

Grumman and his associates succeeded in their venture and the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation was was formed on December 6, 1929. Leroy Grumman, who invested $16,950 from his savings and his severance pay from the Loening corporation to acquire 46.7 percent of the voting shares of the new company, became chairman of the board and president, a dual position he held until 1946, when he relinquished the president position. For the next twenty years Roy Grumman continued to serve as chairman of the board, a position he stepped down on Many 19, 1966. he was then elected honorary chairman for his lifetime and remained a director on the board until June 15, 1972.

Even though he was a quiet and reserved, almost shy person, Roy Grumman was nevertheless awarded many honors during his lifetime as a result of the outstanding contributions made by the company which bore his name and which he led for 37 years. First and foremost was the Presidential Medal of Merit, the nation's highest civilian award, which was presented by Navy Secretary James Forrestal on behalf of President Harry Truman both to Grumman and to his colleague Jake Swirbul "...for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service... in the design and production of several of the the most efficient types of aircraft supplied to the Navy. [As heads of the Grumman Company]... an organization which by outstanding initiative in researching and making improvements, maintained its aircraft constantly at the forefront of operational and combat efficiency... and contribured greatly to the effectiveness of United States Naval Aviation." In 1948, the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics also awarded its Medal to Roy Grumman "for outstanding achievement in successfully advancing aircaft design for naval and peacetime use." In 1966, it was the turn of the National Aeronautics Association to recognize Grumman by citing him "in recognition of his significant and enduring contributions over the years to the progress of aeronautics, and his demonstrated qualities of patriotism, integrity, and moral courage worthy of emulation," while in 1968, the National Academy of Sciences gave him the first Hunsaker Medal "for his contribution to aeronautical engineering."

Other honors and awards received by Roy Grumman include an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1949, the 19th annual Frank M. Hawks Memorial from the American Legion Air Service Post 501 in 1959, and an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Adelphi College in 1961. In 1953, he was elected to the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, Cornell University. In 1972, shortly afte resigning as director of the board from the Grumman Corporation, he was enshrined in the Long Island Hall of Fame and in the Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio. In 1973, he was invested in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame in San Diego, California, and in 1984 he was posthumously inducted into the Naval Aviation Hall of Honor in Pensacola, Florida. In December 1988, he was further honored when the U.S. Navy had a fleet oiler christened the U.S.S. Leroy Grumman by his three daughters.

Leroy Randle Grumman was married to Rose Marion Werther, with whom he had three daughters and one son. He died at age 88 on October 4, 1982.

Source: Grumman Aircraft: Since 1929 by Francillon, Rene J.


Sign placed on a street corner near Plant 1 commemorating the Grumman company in Bethpage


Oiler dedicated to Leroy Grumman by his three daughters, the USNS Leroy Grumman