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James Smith McDonnell
Born April 9, 1899
Died August 22, 1980
Known for McDonnell Douglas

James Smith McDonnell (April 9, 1899 - August 22, 1980) was an aviation pioneer and founder of McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, later McDonnell Douglas.

McDonnell (or "Mac" as he was often referred) was a graduate of Princeton University and earned a Master's of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from MIT. While attending MIT he joined the Delta Upsilon Fraternity. After graduating from MIT, he worked for the Huff Daland Airplane Company and Glenn L. Martin Company. He resigned from Martin in 1938 and founded McDonnell Aircraft Corporation in 1939.

Headquartered in St. Louis, the company quickly grew into the principal supplier of fighter aircraft to the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy. In 1950, he founded the James S. McDonnell Foundation to "improve the quality of life," and does so by contributing to the generation of new knowledge through its support of research and scholarship.

McDonnell was, by some accounts, a believer in the occult, and many of his aircraft were given names of supernatural beings or practices (such as phantom, demon, goblin, banshee, and voodoo)[1].

McDonnell Aircraft merged with the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1967. The McDonnell corporate heritage now rests with Boeing which merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997, including the St. Louis plant that produces the F-15 Eagle and F/A-18 Hornet / F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters.


McDonnell preferred to keep his company in the family, and a number of his relatives were prominent in it. His nephew, Sanford McDonnell, became its chairman.

James McDonnell was married twice. His first marriage, to Mary Elizabeth Finney, took place in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 30, 1934. They had two children, James Smith McDonnell, III, born January 28, 1936, and John Finney McDonnell, born March 18, 1938. Mary McDonnell died on July 6, 1949. McDonnell married Priscilla Brush Forney on April 1, 1956, and adopted her three children from a previous marriage.


McDonnell Park in St. Louis County is named in honor of James Smith McDonnell, as are the McDonnell Planetarium in Forest Park and James S. McDonnell Boulevard near Lambert St. Louis International Airport.


  1. ^ E.g., Sheffield, Richard G., Air Combat Simulator Tactics and Maneuvers (


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