Lawrence Dale Bell

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Lawrence Dale Bell
Born(1894-04-05)April 5, 1894
DiedOctober 20, 1956(1956-10-20) (aged 62)
Resting placeForest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York
Known forFounding Bell Aircraft Corporation
AwardsDaniel Guggenheim Medal (1944)

Lawrence Dale "Larry" Bell (April 5, 1894 – October 20, 1956) was an American industrialist and founder of Bell Aircraft Corporation.


Bell was born in Mentone, Indiana, and lived there until 1907, when his family moved to Santa Monica, California. He joined his older brother Grover and stunt pilot Lincoln Beachey as a mechanic in 1912. Grover Bell was killed in a plane crash the following year, and Lawrence vowed to quit aviation for good; however, he went to work for the Glenn L. Martin Company after friends convinced him to return to the industry. He became Martin's shop foreman at age 20, and later the company's general manager, wanting to become partner.[1] On 17 July 1915, he married Lucille Mainwaring (1891–1970); their marriage, without children, lasted for thirty-three years.[2]

Bell plant assembly line near Niagara Falls, New York

He left Martin in 1928 to join Consolidated Aircraft in Buffalo, New York, eventually becoming vice president and general manager. When Consolidated relocated to San Diego, Bell stayed in Buffalo and founded his own company with 56 employees,[1] Bell Aircraft Corporation, on July 10, 1935. On a government-sponsored "spy tour" to Germany with 44 other industrialists in 1938, he saw the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 helicopter, and used the layout of a German aircraft factory for his Niagara Falls plant.[1] Bell Aircraft built the P-39 Airacobra and P-63 Kingcobra fighter aircraft during World War II. Bell's P-59 Airacomet fighter was America's first jet-powered aircraft. Postwar, the company produced the Bell X-1, the first aircraft to break the sound barrier in level flight. The company began developing helicopters in 1941, with the Bell 30 taking its maiden flight in 1943. This early model evolved into the Bell 47, the first helicopter to be certified for civilian use. The Model 47 saw worldwide success, with over 5,600 being built, serving notably in the Korean War, and in innumerable civilian roles. Bell's greatest enduring legacy is perhaps the UH-1 Iroquois, with over 16,000 produced, advanced versions of which remain in production. The "Huey" transformed US Army aviation during the Vietnam War, and became one of the most recognizable aircraft in history.

For his role in the X-1's first supersonic flight, he shared the 1947 Collier Trophy with pilot Chuck Yeager and John Stack, a research scientist with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (now NASA). He was awarded the Society of Automotive Engineers' Daniel Guggenheim Medal in 1944, and was posthumously inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame[3] (1977), the Army Aviation Hall of Fame (1986), and the International Aerospace Hall of Fame (2004).

Legacy and awards[edit]

Bell was initiated to the York Rite of Freemasonry;[4][5][6] he was subsequently elevated to the highest degree of Grand Master.[citation needed]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Pate, J'Nell L. Arsenal of Defense: Fort Worth's Military Legacy p. 137-138. Texas State Historical Association Press, 2011. ISBN 9780876112496
  2. ^ Norton, Donald J. Larry, a biography of Lawrence D. Bell p. 30. Nelson-Hall, Chicago, 1981. ISBN 0882296159
  3. ^ "Enshrinee Lawrence Dale Bell". National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved 27 January 2023.
  4. ^ "Famous members of Masonic Lodges". Bavaria Lodge No. 935 A.F. & A. M. Archived from the original on October 13, 2018.
  5. ^ "History of Freemasonry". Archived from the original on November 30, 2010. Retrieved Oct 20, 2018.
  6. ^ "List of Famous Masons in the history". Highland Lodge No 762 F& A. M. Fort Wayne IN. Archived from the original on November 9, 2014. Retrieved November 17, 2018.

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