Larry Bell

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Person.png Larry Bell   Spartacus WebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
BornLawrence Dale Bell
April 5, 1894
Mentone, Indiana, USA
DiedOctober 20, 1956 (Age 62)
Buffalo, New York, USA
InterestsYork Rite
Founder of Bell Aircraft Corporation, a part of the military-industrial complex, with ties to Lyndon B. Johnson. Grand Master freemason.

Lawrence Dale "Larry" Bell 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[1][2] 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.[3] On 17 July 1915 he married Lucille Mainwaring (1891-1970); their marriage, without children, lasted for thirty-three years.[4]

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,[3] 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.[3] 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.

Military-industrial complex

After the war the company concentrated on helicopters and in Bell had the great idea of making a 47-B available for Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson during his 1948 election campaign. As Robert Bryce has pointed out: "With a helicopter, Johnson could land right in the center of town and give a speech right on the landing spot, eliminating the need for time-wasting car trips and from the airstrip."[5]

Bell decided to move his company from New York State to Fort Worth, Texas. Johnson, who became a member of the Naval affairs Committee, was able to help his friend sell helicopters to the United States Military.

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.

Bell was initiated to the York Rite of Freemasonry,[6][7][8] till his elevation to the highest degree of Grand Master.

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  1. Grover Bell
  2. Grover e. Bell;findagrave
  3. 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
  4. Norton, Donald J. Larry, a biography of Lawrence D. Bell p. 30. Nelson-Hall, Chicago, 1981. ISBN 0882296159
  5. quoted in Spartacus Educational