Memphis Flying Service, LaVelle Walsh, and the Sad Fate of Her Son, Bob



In our February 2010 issue, I told the story of LaVelle Walsh, who ran the Memphis Flying Service, a little airport once located on Winchester Road. Walsh was the only female operator of an airport in the country.

Well, my pal Joe Mercer has sent me some interesting information about her son, Bobby Walsh, and I thought I'd share it with you here:

"I would like to comment on your article about Lavelle Walsh. That airstrip was across the street from Doyle Pearson's farm. I graduated from Whitehaven High School in 1953, with her son Bobby. He was a baseball pitcher who made All-County before going on to pitch for the Vols and then drafted by the Phillies, where he threw away his right arm, and then joined the U.S. Air Force. He learned to fly and when he got out, he joined Continental Airlines. He became a captain and later the company president's personal pilot in their NA265 Sabreliner.

"On April 13, 1973, he flew from Los Angeles to Montrose, Colorado, to drop off his three passengers, two of whom were Mr. and Mrs. Robert Six [NOTE: Six was the president of Continental, and his wife was better known as the famous TV actress Audrey Meadows of The Honeymooners fame].

"Thirty minutes later, he and his first officer departed for Denver. At about 1,000 feet, the left engine somehow went into 'reverse-thrust,' causing a severe problem, which they couldn't correct, and the plane crashed, killing both pilots.

"Bobby left his wife Charlotte White (also from Whitehaven High School), three sons, and his mother, in Riverside, California. Sad to say, but 4-13-73 was a Friday the 13th." — Joe Mercer

PHOTO COURTESY JOE MERCER
 

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

You can find him from time to time in the pages of the Memphis Flyer and MBQ, on WKNO television, and on Facebook. When he is not exploring the highways and byways of Memphis, he spends his time sleeping, napping, and dozing.

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