The Sea-Air Operations gallery at the National Air and Space Museum’s flagship building on the National Mall in Washington will be dedicated to the memory of naval aviator, entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Daniels.
The honor is in recognition of a $3 million legacy grant by the Daniels Fund, the largest charity in the Rocky Mountain region. Bill Daniels founded the Daniels Fund in 1997, three years before his death at age 79.
“Throughout a remarkable life, Bill Daniels represented the best of America,” said Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey, museum director. “It’s only fitting that he’ll continue to inspire young people through our museum with a gallery that focuses on a demanding subject Bill mastered at an early age–naval aviation.”
The gallery will be formally dedicated at a private event on Monday, November 28.
Daniels, a graduate of the New Mexico Military Institute and an undefeated Golden Gloves boxing champion, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1941. He was a fighter pilot aboard the aircraft carriers USS Intrepid and USS Sangamon during World War II and served as an intelligence officer during the Korean War. Daniels was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal, and he retired from the Navy in 1952 with the rank of commander.
As a businessman, Daniels was a pioneer in the field of cable television, owning and operating hundreds of systems across the United States and forming a nationally recognized investment banking service firm for media and technology companies. He was among the first in the industry to recognize the value of sports for cable programming. Besides owning several professional teams, Daniels was president of the American Basketball Association and a founder of the United States Football League.
Daniels’s stature in the business world was matched by that of his work as a philanthropist. His efforts included founding the Young Americans Bank, the first chartered bank in America dedicated to providing a hands-on learning experience for young people. His gifts to the University of Denver helped create a business school curriculum based on social responsibility and ethics.
Daniels also is known for having donated his mansion, “Cableland,” so it could become the official residence of Denver’s mayor, and he used his personal airplane to set a world speed record for business jets while raising several hundred thousand dollars for Junior Achievement, which helps students learn the fundamentals of free enterprise.
“Bill Daniels credited his success to the discipline and training he received as a naval aviator,” said John Saeman, a longtime Daniels friend and chairman of the board of the Daniels Fund. “As a combat pilot operating off aircraft carriers during World War II, Bill placed his life on the line many times for the nation he so dearly loved and would be greatly honored by having the exhibit dedicated in his memory.”
The Sea-Air Operations gallery, which debuted with the opening of the museum building in 1976, features the simulated aircraft carrier USS Smithsonian, CVM-76. Visitors cross a quarterdeck to find a scaled-down recreation of a bay on a hangar deck. There’s also a recreated ready room for crew briefings, a navigation bridge and flight control center. The four vintage airplanes on display in the gallery–a Boeing F4B-4, a Grumman F4F Wildcat, a Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless and a Douglas A-4C Skyhawk–represent a half century of carrier aviation.
The National Air and Space Museum building on the National Mall is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. The museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Va. Both facilities are open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25.) Admission is free, but there’s a $12 fee for parking at the Udvar-Hazy Center. Shuttle bus service runs between the facilities with a roundtrip ticket costing $12. Group discounts are available.