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Dear Flying Friends of Gordon Baxter,
I just learned from my brother in Texas that Gordon Baxter has died at the age of 81. Here is the article that appeared in the 6/12/05 edition of the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise:
06/12/2005 Farewell to the man called Bax By ROLANDO GARCIAThe Enterprise
Gordon Baxter Jr., a legendary Southeast Texas radio personality and author, died Saturday. He was 81.
Baxter had been in declining health and was suffering from respiratory problems, said his son, Jim Baxter.
Baxter's penchant for speaking his mind got him fired frequently, and he bounced between local radio stations during his 50-year broadcasting career. But he kept a loyal following.
A self-styled storyteller, Baxter also wrote a popular column for a national aviation magazine -- he was an amateur pilot -- and authored 13 books.
"He was the most alive man I ever knew," said Diane Baxter, his wife.
Baxter was born on Christmas Day in Port Arthur. After a stint in the Merchant Marines during World War II, he got his first radio job in 1945 at KPAC radio, according to Beaumont Enterprise archives.
There, he earned the enmity of local unions for speaking out against the violence that had erupted during a labor strike.
He waded into political controversy again in the 1960s when he wrote a book defending American policy in Vietnam at a time when the war was growing unpopular. "(Baxter) never backed down and didn't care whether people agreed with him or not," Jim Baxter said.
A devoted audience and a knack for seamlessly weaving advertising into his show ensured that whenever one station let him go, another would snatch him up.
After getting the pink slip from KLVI in 1977, Baxter said he was fired "for the same reason they hired me. I'm Gordon Baxter, and there's no cure for that,"according to Enterprise archives.
Whether he was reporting from the site of the 1948 Texas City explosion or the Apollo space launch or from Vietnam, Baxter focused on the human side of stories in a way that resonated with Southeast Texans, Jim Baxter said.
Even his family life was a frequent on-air topic. Baxter would broadcast live from his living room on Christmas while his children opened presents one at a time on the air.
Baxter's other passion was flying. For 30 years, he wrote the "Bax Seat" column in Flying magazine.
His writing, which ranged from the romance of flight to life at small airports, made him a beloved figure in the aviation community, Jim Baxter said.
At Baxter's 80th birthday bash, retired astronaut Greg Harbaugh praised Baxter for inspiring a generation of pilots.
He will be inducted later this year into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame, Jim Baxter said.
Baxter is survived by nine children, eight from a previous marriage that ended in divorce and one from his 32-year marriage with Diane.
Fly in PEACE.. BAX - Bill Lambright, Greenville, SC
This is really sad news. I have read Flying since 1960. To think that its two best columnists, Bax and Len Morgan, were lost in the same year is astounding. I would like to hear the stories that those two tell each other on the other side. Condolences to the family.
Bax and Morgan I just learned about the passing of those two men in a 24 time period. Morgan showed how percision control of the English language can create raw power in an essay. I remember reading some of his columns and weeping.
Bax warmth and tenderness in each of his columns. Both their columns were inspirational I hope the writing I do will hit its mark.
Yes, Gordon Baxter has indeed slipped the surely bonds of earth. This is a link to our local tv station that has a story about it: http://www.kfdm1.com/engine.pl?station=kfdm&id=10532&template=breakoutlo...
I remember meeting Bax in my youth at my church were he frequently visited while he was a disk jocky at KTXJ radio here in Jasper. He was one of the ones that inspired me to actually want to fly.
Both Len and his brother, David P. Morgan (late editor emeritus of "Trains" magazine) were among the best writers I've ever had the pleasure to read. Len will be missed.
I had the wonderful privilege of having an extended discussion with Gordon Baxter at the "Flying" tent at OSH a few years ago. What a warm, gentle man. He, too, will be sorely missed.
It is indeed fortunate that the thoughts and words of both of these men will be preserved.
Wow, this is sad news indeed. I used to read both Morgan and Baxter columns all the time, and they will be missed indeed!
It is good to note, however, that their body of work will continue to live on as a legacy to them.
Their words gave flight to the hearts and souls of aviators everywhere.
Maybe, if we are lucky, someone at Flying will get the idea to dedicate a future issue completely to Morgan and Baxter. I am sure they could find enough material in their past columns to fill at least one issue. Maybe some poetry by Gil Robb Wilson to top it off.
Mac McClellan take note.
I met Gordon Baxter back in the mid 1970s time frame when he cam to Clover Field in Friendswood, TX to get his glider rating. I met him again a few years later when he addressed a group (Houston General Aviation Pilots Assn., I think was the group name). I had of course listened to him on his morning Beaumont radio show for some time previous.
One of his "Bax Seat" articles ("Forty More to Yarb") referred to my father, Ed Yarbrough. Bax out lasted Dad by a little over 5 years but I'm sure they are swapping stories now.
Bless the memories and stories that Bax gave us.
I guess I've been out of the loop for a while now, busy with other, non-aviation related issues. Needless to say, when I saw the cover of this month's edition, I knew a long time hero had made his final landing.
Bax not only will be, but has been, sorely missed since he hung up his typewriter. I've never had the opportunity to hear him, read any of his books, or even meet the man, but Bax Seat was almost always the first place I turned to when I opened the latest copy of FLYING.
After Bax announced his seizure condition, I was also diagnosed with a seizure disorder. I wrote to him and told him about it, and he wrote back, very encouraging, very supportive. Now that I've been seizure free, and off medication for a number of years, my AME thinks I can get my medical back. How I wish the same had been available for Bax.
There is no doubt in my mind that this last Bax Seat was the best he has ever written. Tears flowed down my face as I read it, and even now, thinking about it, my eyes well up.
Bax was a friend to thousands of people who never knew him, but yet, were touched deep inside by his words, wit and charm. He was my hero.
I have read many articles by both Gordon and Len... They have both inspired and at times brought tears to my eyes. God bless you both and welcome you both home. You will be missed by your fellow pilots and devoted followers.
In my senior year of high school, my film teacher and pilot, Mr. Thomas Meyers, had me read a book. "The Bax Seat", autographed by the man himself. It was a wonderful book. I loved it.
Never have I read a book that told the true meaning of flight. At around the same time, I took my first flight lesson at SMO. Everything Bax said was true about flight. Reading his book made me also want to fly at Pappy's field in a Cub, and "smell the crushed clover beneath the tires". I was even crying with the book.
Hearing about Bax's death shocked me. To me, he was one of the last barnstormers.
Fly on, buddy!
I started flying about 35 years ago and "Flying Mag" was my bible. I'm just getting back in after so many years away..I really miss it. I was saddened to just hear about Bax as he was the first columnist that came to mind when I picked up the most recent copy. The aviation community has lost another great one.
In the later years. after he lost his medical, my wife Dolly and I flew him to some of his speaking engagements. He wrote about two of those flights in his BAX SEAT articles in FLYING magazine. I have lost those issues and am trying to find out how to buy copies. They would have been written in the 80's. He certainly was a colorful person, I listened to his radio programs in Port Arthur and went thru school with his daughter Molly.
Make it a habit to check your fuel gauges to ensure the tanks are even.
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