Monday, March 28, 2016

Personality & Character of Jack Frye

Photo courtesy LIFE Magazine

In all of recorded history there are certain individuals that stand-out as shining stars to me personally and publicly. Some of them I mention here you may know or may not. Jesus Christ, Maurice Hall, Jeanne Mesquit, my wife Kelly Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Mac Mann, Danny Thomas, Lucille Ball, Red Skelton and now – Jack Frye.

These are individuals that I esteem to have exemplified true love and sacrifice for their fellow man, and have and will leave a legacy of goodness and compassion beyond their years for which we can rely on when we are looking for a role model with superior qualities.

Jack Frye is now my most recent addition to this special list of human beings. May I explore Mr. Frye’s character and personality traits that have shown me a quality human being?

First of all, I want to preface this review with this. My number one human being on the list above, when he walked on the earth that He created, possesses all perfect character and personality traits any human being could ever attain in life. He is virtually perfect. All of the rest are sojourners on the path towards His perfection as best as they and we know how.

Since I decided to tackle the Jack Frye Blog, even before when I was slowly acquiring data, stories and photographic memories about him for some years, I began to sense there was something different, something unusual and special about this man over all other historical figures that have made a huge impact on society at large, and individuals for which he came in contact.

The first trait I have sensed and know to be true is his 'love for of his fellow man’ no matter who they were and how he came in contact. Jack seemed to have mastered the ability to show compassion in all circumstances. This was probably ingrained into him at a young age on the ranch in Texas. This is not an easy trait to acquire later in life. It takes great sacrifice of self to look upon your fellow man as more important than yourself. Just ask me, I know. This is demonstrated in a huge way when TWA and other airlines lost the Air-Mail contracts of the government right in the middle of the new DC-2 contract with Douglas Aircraft. Jack could have easily cancelled the contract and paid the fees and moved on but that would have meant hundreds of TWA employees would have lost their jobs. So what does the compassionate Jack Frye do? He gets on the phone with Donald Douglas and asks him to hire the effected TWA employees until he gets the mail contracts back. He also did this with the Wright Engine company and other vendors in behalf of his employees. It doesn’t end there. Jack informed his maintenance employees that they could find jobs in Santa Monica or Patterson New Jersey and TWA would pay for their travel expenses. The mail contracts did come back and Frye restored the jobs!

Next, Jack is a ‘completely optimistic’ man that knows no bounds or restraints to exploring new and improved ideas of how to make life easier for people. He completely excelled with this quality in his early years on the old airfield when he began to realize people flying in his airplanes were uncomfortable. Jack got to work and began to provide the beginning steps towards passenger luxury by 1939. A first in aviation history. He put himself in the place of his customers to ensure their utmost comfort and accommodations no matter the cost.

The next character trait I have realized about Jack Frye is he was able to mingle with the meekest person all the way up to royalty and Presidents with no sign of tension. He was a consummate ‘people person’. Always inquiring with genuine concern how people were doing on the ground and in the air. He was centrally focused of making sure people were safe and that their needs were taken care of. In his personal life this trait existed without restraint as well.

’His smile’ has been reported as ‘infectious’, attractive, happy and without restriction. I see this in many photographs and just by reading many historical accounting's of his business and personal life. I also have had the opportunity to learn about his wonderful human presence from his daughter in conversations. She has confirmed what I had already sensed about her dad. In the opposite, I am sure Jack Frye had his moments in board room meetings and dealing with company employees (Howard Hughes, Noah Dietrich) that tended to wipe his infectious smile off his face a time or two. Even Jesus Christ himself got upset and mad without a smile a few times, so I don’t measure this perfectly human response against Jack in any way. A smiler he was...

Speaking about better, Jack possessed a character trait of ‘high quality’ to the point it didn’t matter what it cost. Quality of service, safety, schedule and quality of his personal life had no bounds. And I believe even if he hadn’t been wealthy with resources, Jack Frye would have still required high quality standards in all facets of his life. Jack went for the best in life however small or large the decision before him.

In the business world where it was required Jack get things taken care of and progressing forward in the highly competitive airline business, he possessed the trait of a ‘powerful and dynamic empire building magnate’ that was experienced by those around him the minute he stepped into a room. They knew by his positive integrity and ability to set the standard that he meant business. He was smart, quick to the draw of making good business sense and he didn’t hold back.

One of the qualities of Jack Frye’s personality I have learned and grown to love about him was his ability to dream big’. Jack was a dreamer, a visionary that had the ability to make them come true. He could latch onto an idea, work it out and deliver it to a group of business people and then, take the lead and make it happen. This while occupying the Presidents seat. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and show others how it’s done. This occurred many times when he was establishing new air routes where on-time and fuel issues mattered. His over-weather flying experiments in the Gamma 2D above the clouds with just a bottle and mask for oxygen demonstrated his bravado and willingness to take the chances and fulfilling those dreams of flying smoothly above the clouds. This was a first in aviation history! And there are many more I cannot list here.

Jack Frye possessed a certain ‘charisma and charm’ for a 6’2” cigar smoking burley gentleman. He has been described as a gentle giant among his employees and business partners alike. He also attracted the female side of life with his charming presence to what some may call his demise. But, Jack was never an uptight or out of control individual. He had control over his hidden idiosyncrasies that allowed him to fit in with all walks of life, a character trait akin to our Lord who demonstrates so perfectly.

If there was ever a man who wanted to be ‘a father’ it was Jack Frye. He had lived over 45 years until his first and only child entered this world, a beautiful daughter he and Emily named Nevajac. He so dearly loved his daughter in that he tended her every need day in and day out. Nev has shared with me that her dad was almost like being her mother. This period of his life made Jack Frye complete in character in every way.

The ‘bravado’ this man possessed and demonstrated quite frequently is something to behold. It wasn’t a mean spirited bravado, but a calculated, confident and gentile character trait that caused others to want to follow.

‘Enthusiasm’ was central to Jack Frye’s character. There can be no misunderstanding about this trait he possessed. It was infectious like his smile, it energized his staff, friends and powerful people in high places so much, he was asked to run for the democratic ticket after Harry Truman! They honestly saw Jack Frye being the 34th President of the United States! But even more revealing of Jack’s enthusiasm was his sheer and positive commitment to leading and expanding the airline industry for all of mankind. He met this incredible task ahead with great enthusiasm and positive thinking in a way that no other could have mustered. Charles Lindbergh in my opinion was the only other aviation hero who could have pulled the airline industry off. In fact the proof is in the pudding as to our airline industry today. Flawed and tainted as it may be, it was Jack Frye’s early innovative ideas filled with this unquenchable enthusiasm that lead the way in airline aviation. Who knows what he would have accomplished if he had the full support he needed back in the 40’s.

The ‘patriotism’ Jack Frye displayed as a civilian cannot be measured in normal terms. It was off the chart during WWII. As TWA President in 1940, he actually saw the need for his airline fleet to be handed over to the Army Air Corps to support our troops and cargo transportation to Europe. This he knew before it was mandated by the Air Corps. Because he had had meetings with the commanding generals prior to this eventuality in that he told them he would let the 307 Stratoliners go to the government to help out . And then the Boeing Constellation. This was before any other airline company even thought of such a gesture. Jack Frye was eventually awarded the Presidential Metal of Merit in 1947 for patriotic duty in the war effort by Harry Truman, and the Italian Cross of Valor.

Jack had the ability to make bold decisions in the face of adversity and the unknown. I suppose this would be characterized as a 'confident see'er' of the future. In religious terms of old, a prophet. People often consider this character trait as arrogance or blind ambition. This would be the negative approach to understanding. But since we can now clearly see Jack Frye's many successes, it can only be deduced that he knew exactly what he was doing when making the many difficult decisions about his company. There are articles that have recorded Jack giving speeches to the aircraft industry and investors alike to fill the skies with 'millions' of airplanes, not thousands, millions! On the surface this may seem outlandish and unneeded, but if we hypothesize this into reality, can you imagine how aircraft travel would effect us today? Heck, there would be systems and support in place for the neighbor or even ourselves to be able walk out the front door, jump into our plane and go shopping. The price of air travel would be drastically reduced from the enormous presence and competition in the industry.

We often take for granted 'citizenship' in our community. Jack was constantly involved with the local citizenry wherever he traveled, including his many home towns across the country. If there were improvements he could take care of, he did. If someone needed help starting a small town business, or needed transportation, he took care of it without repayment. There are many stories of Jack's help he freely awarded to people and businesses across the country. A dutiful citizen he was.

One of the most important character traits anyone can possess is 'trustworthiness'. Jack displayed this trait through his reliability, his doing what he said he was going to do and having the courage to do the right thing time after time. He was extremely loyal to his company of over 17,000 employees by 1947. He was married four times which might suggest some of his trustworthiness faded a bit, only he and his family can honestly address this part of his life. But from what I know he was a dedicated husband to all of his wives and provided the best for them.

Jack Frye was a very 'fair' man. He was able to weigh circumstances and work out whatever needed to happen so all parties were satisfied. He wasn't a president or a human being that tried to take advantage for the sake of destroying the other party. He loved open competition and overcoming it, but with a certain fairness being part of the mix. Howard Hughes on the other hand was quite the opposite and we don't need to delve into that here but to say, if you stand them side by side, Jack Frye wins in the area of fairness hands down.

The character trait of being 'responsible' was paramountly present in Jack Frye's life. This is obvious. In his personal life from what I know, he provided and cared for his wives deeply, he loved his wive's as any good responsible husband would. Each one of them for whatever reason lasted 8-10 years, enough time to invest a lot of emotional support and responsibility for the relationships. Professionally, he always put out 110% this we know. That's responsible. He was self disciplined, he always thought things through before he acted, he knew the consequences. And he was accountable for his words and actions before his staff and professional colleagues. And finally he always set an example for his employees and peers. Smartly dressed, poised, respectful, great attitude and ready to serve, Jack Frye was one of the most responsible aviation leaders the world has ever seen.

Finally, Jack Frye was 'genuine'. He had no pretense of being artificial or phony in any way. What you saw was what you got. But along with this, he displayed this golden trait to his fellow man which legitimizes his genuineness for all to see. There was no hidden agenda about Jack Frye. He had no reason to do so as he was a man of action and responsibility, and accountable. People aren't measured by the mass of things they do or acquire in life. But by their legacy and genuine personality that sets them apart from others. A man could have done all the things Jack Frye accomplished yet with a non-genuine personality, he would have been left with a horrible legacy. Jack was a complete and positively genuine personality many strive for but never attain.

There is more to speak about Jack Frye's personality and character. But at this point I think this covers the subject quite well, and its all true in this writers opinion.

I hope you know a little more about the man, the business mogul, the aviator, the leader of 17,000 employees, the husband, and the father – Jack Frye.

Eric Johnson
Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer blog

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