Texas's first licensed pilot dies
On this day in 1956, Slats Rodgers, the colorful owner of the first pilot's license in Texas, died in McAllen. Floyd H. Rodgers was born in Georgia in 1889 and moved to Texas with his family as a boy. As a young man he worked for the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway, but aviation was his passion. With the help of an engineer friend, Rodgers designed and built a primitive aircraft, reputed to be the first built in Texas, which he flew without instruction in late 1912, a mere nine years after the first manned airplane flight by the Wright brothers. He became a flight instructor for the army in 1916 and worked as a barnstormer and circus stunt pilot after World War I. During prohibition he bought his own plane to ferry bootleg liquor from Mexico to Texas. He was involved in gambling and moonshining operations, eventually serving six months in a Dallas jail. After prohibition, he turned to crop dusting in the lower Rio Grande valley. On special charter requests he would sometimes shock his passengers with unforgettable aerial performances. Although his flight career extended to his later years, his flamboyant lifestyle and penchant for the illegal were increasingly limited by rules and regulations of the Civil Aeronautics Administration. Rodgers subsequently ranched and ran restaurants in Bandera and McAllen. His autobiography, Old Soggy No. 1: The Uninhibited Story of Slats Rodgers, was coauthored by Hart Stilwell and published in 1954.