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Obituary of C.E. Woolman, 1889-1966
New York Times- September 12, 1966-
C. E. Woolman is dead at 76, Chairman of Delta Air Lines; Founded Company in '25 for Crop Dusting- Set Up
Mail Routes in South America
Atlanta, Sept. 11 (AP)- C. E. Woolman, chairman of the board of Delta Air Lines, died of a heart attack today
in a Houston hospital. He was 76 years old.
Mr. Woolman underwent surgery seven days ago.
7th Largest Air Carrier
In 1925, Collett Everman Woolman founded an aerial crop dusting company that, under his piloting, soared
into Delta Air Lines, Inc., a domestic and international air-transport company flying more than 14,000 route
miles, whose operating revenue for the last fiscal year topped $300 million. Delta now is the world's seventh
largest air carrier and employs more than 13,000 persons.
Mr. Woolman's career spanned the history of flight from the crate like Jennys to Jets. He learned to fly in a
Jenny during World War I, but his first job after being graduated from the University of Illinois in 1912 was
not flying but farming. He managed a 7,000 acre Mississippi delta plantation before becoming a county agent
in Ouachita parish in Louisiana.
In 1922, a group of farmers stood around the square of a small Louisiana town, talking about the boll-weevil
threat to their cotton crop. Two men joined the group and listened. One was Mr. Woolman, then a district
farm agent. The other was dr. D. B. R. Coad from a Department of Agriculture laboratory.
"If you could kill them long-billed insects, it'd save us," a farmer said. "They're gonna ruin us for sure."
Mr. Woolman and Dr. Coad knew from experiments they had made that they had a remedy for the boll-weevil
scourge- calcium arsenate. The problem was how to get the poison to the bug in the most effective way.
Hand sprinkling with a solution of molasses and arsenate was slow and too costly.<br>
"Why not try the airplane?" Dr. Coad suggested.
Attached a Hopper
Mr. Woolman was enthusiastic. He believed that a hopper attached to a plane would do the job. The idea
worked. Using their own money and borrowing more, the two men formed Huff-daland Dusters, later to
become the Delta Air Service. Soon the pioneer crop-dusters had 18 planes- "largest unsubsidized air fleet in
the world those days," Mr. Woolman later said of it.
So successful were the techniques developed by Mr. Woolman and his associates that Huff-Daland;s
operations were expanded across the South and into Mexico and South America.
Dusting cotton in Peru in 1927, Mr. Woolman saw the potentiality of hauling mail by air.
"We ran into hot competition from wealthy German interests in South America,: he recalled, "but we beat the
Germans and secured the airmail rights in Peru."
"The South American operation was getting pretty big by the following year, when we found ourselves right in
the middle of a red-hot local revolution," he said. "Both sides tried to get hold of our planes for their armies.
We sold our dusters to a local company and our airmail routes to Pan-American-Grace. The route became the
nucleus of the Panagra system."
The company started flying passengers in 1929. Delta's first flight, a six passenger J-6 Travelaire with a
speed of 90 miles an hour took off from Dallas bound for Jackson, Miss. Later that year, the route was
extended to Atlanta and eventually to Charleston, S.C.
In good times and bad, Mr. Woolman's faith in aviation's future never flagged and delta grew steadily. He had
been its largest individual stockholder.
Last year, he went from president to chairman of the chief executive officer.
He was a big man, 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 195 pounds. He had a full shock of iron gray hair and clear
blue eyes. His handshake was that of a lumberjack. His job was his life and his hobby.
Mr. Woolman averaged several plane trips a month. He preferred to ride in the second row seat on the right
side and to chat with passengers to find out what the public thought about the airline. Before the trip was
over, he would have roamed the plane and gone forward to greet the flight crew.
"Let's put ourselves on the other side of the counter," he often said at company sales meetings. "We have a
responsibility over and above the price of a ticket."
He often told his associates, "any individual or business that is completely honest in all its dealings is likely to
"This business," he said, in an interview, "is nuts and bolts, but it's primarily people." As a result, Delta
enjoyed an enviable espirit de corps.
Favoring mergers of airlines to eliminate "overcompetition"- Chicago and Southern was merged with Delta in
1952- he said, "If you put three cows in a pasture where there is only grass enough for two, they all get thin."
Two daughters, Mrs. Sam Preston and Mrs. Martha Taylor, both of Atlanta, and a sister, Mrs. Rachel
Woolman Simpson, survive.