Secretary of the Air Force from Sept. 18, 1947 to April 24, 1950
W. Stuart Symington was the first secretary of the Air Force. He had previously served from Jan. 3, 1946, as assistant secretary of war for air when the Army Air Force was a part of the War Department.
Symington was born in 1901 at Amherst, Mass. After graduation from Baltimore City College in 1918, Symington enlisted in the Army as a private, and at 17 became one of the Army's youngest second lieutenants.
After World War I, Symington entered Yale University, and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree. He received an honorary degree of doctor of laws from Baylor University, Waco, Texas, Feb. 1, 1950.
In 1923, Symington went to work for an uncle in the shops of the Symington Company of Rochester, N.Y., manufacturers of malleable iron products. Two years later he formed Eastern Clay Products, Inc., but in 1927 returned to the Symington Company as executive assistant to the president.
Symington resigned in 1930 to become president of the Colonial Radio Corporation, now a manufacturing division of Sylvania Electric Products. In January 1935, he accepted the presidency of Rustless Iron and Steel Corporation, manufactures of stainless steel, but remained director of Colonial Radio Corporation.
When Rustless Iron and Steel Corporation was sold to the American Rolling Mill Company in 1937, Symington resigned and in 1938, accepted the presidency of Emerson Electric Manufacturing Company of St. Louis.
Early in 1941, at the request of the Army, the Navy and the Office of Production Management, Symington went to England with a group of aeronautical engineers to study the new type of guns on military planes. He returned in June 1941, to build the world's largest airplane armament plant as part of the Emerson Company in St. Louis. The company produced great quantities of power-driven turrets to provide American bombers with protective firepower.
Symington's varied industrial experience and his company's war production record led to his appointment as chairman of the original three-member Surplus Property Board on July 16, 1945. On Oct. 1, 1945, when Congress created the Surplus Property Administration, Symington was named administrator. The task of this organization was to formulate the policies under which government agencies disposed of the tremendous surplus of war properties.