The present Beauregard Parish Airport has a long and colorful history,
which began prior to its use as an airfield. The airport property
includes most of what was once the Graybow Community. In 1912 Graybow was
an active community and the location of the Galloway Sawmill.
The sawmill had been built along the Santa Fe Railroad tracks with the
planer mill on one side of the tracks and the big mill, commissary, and
office on the other side of the tracks. This was the site of the
Graybow Riot of 1912. Some have referred to the incident as the first
labor riot in the U.S. It is interesting that Lake Charles American
Press reported that Company K of the 1st Louisiana Infantry was sent to
DeRidder in 1912 for duty during a labor riot. If this was a result of
the Graybow Riot then this was the earliest known military involvement
with the airport.
Two decades later the nation was experiencing the effects of the Great
Depression. To counteract the unemployment caused by the depression, work
projects were activated across the country. One such project was begun in
1934, 3 miles west of DeRidder under the Auspices of the Emergency Relief
Authority which later became the WPA. This project in a stump littered
field provided employment for about 400 men, who worked to clear what had
once been a densely wooded region.
They constructed two earthen runways on 160 acres of land leased from the
owner. The field was used very little. Barnstorming pilots would
occasionally visit and offer rides for $2.00.
A 1937 aerial photo shows a very basic grass landing strip. The photo
identifies the site as Beauregard field. There are also photos, taken the
same year, of another airport which was located east Pinewood Elementary
where the carnival is located during the annual fair. This was identified
in the photos as the DeRidder Airport.
Interest in the military utilization of Beauregard Field increased
significantly in 1939 when war began in Europe. The United States needed a
training ground for American troops. In the summer of 1940 the area was
used for the "Louisiana Maneuvers". Beauregard Field was used extensively.
The Beauregard Parish Police Jury bought the previously leased 160 acres
plus an additional 280 acres for $11,000. An additional 200 acres was
later bought to make up 1 square mile.
In Feburary, 1941, Colonel Roy C. Powell, Army Engineers visited the site
urging that a proposed development be filed as a National Defense Project.
The Police Jury and the City of DeRidder agreed to furnish the additional
200 acres, plus sewage and water facilities, and to remove obstructions to
air navigation. The cost to be $475,518.85 excluding labor. On Feburary
26, 1941, the American Press reported unanimous "approval of the airport
at DeRidder for the estabishment of an observation squadron in connection
with the armored division at Camp Polk, near Leesville". The "connection"
to "Camp" Polk still exists. There has been a continuing working
relationship between the military and civilian communities for over 50
The DeRidder Army Air Base was begun on July 21, 1941, four months prior
to Pearl Harbor. Additional runways were begun as a result of the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor. The federal government leased the 640 acre tract
from the Police Jury and acquired surrounding property until the base
included over 4,200 acres.
The base developed rapidly after the United States entered World War II.
The year 1942 saw the completion of several runways, concrete aprons,
radio-controlled tower, a huge hanger, recreation hall, post office,
60-bed hospital, theatre, and housing. Over 5,000 personnel, military and
civilian were assigned to the base. In comparison the population for the
City of DeRidder at that time is shown at 3,750. One project of interest
was the swimming pool located near the location of the Graybow Riot. "From
a stagnant waterhole hidden amoung a large group of pine trees, at the
south end of the airfield, the Corps of Engineers built the 'Pearl Harbor'
swimming pool, one of the largest to be found at any army 'camp'. One has
wonder if this pool might have been the site of the Galloway millpond.
Here a three level diving tower, clothed in thick rope netting was used to
instruct military personnel on the best methods of abandoning ship. One
method was the climbing down of these nets while another required the men
to jump from the tower's highest point".
"The pool was officially opened on Friday afternoon September 4th, it's
dedication honoring the valiant heroes of Peral Harbor."
A newspaper was quickly established and the DeRidder Air Base news made
its' first appearance on September the 15th.With Volume 1, Number 2 the
Base Newspaper acquired a shorter name. From the second edition on it was
known simply as: The Observer.
Corporal Bart Allen of the 317th designed a distinctive badge for the
Squadron which was sent to the Adjutant General's office for approval; the
AG office gave its offical approval on October 8th, 1942.
The design on the badge showed a gold quill and a gold propeller blade in
saltire. Perched upon the hub of the blade was a gold pelican. A blue
scroll with gold lettering above the pelican and the prop proclaimed
"Servitium Non Servitudo - Service, Not Servitude".
There was also an offical base song according to the abovementioned
"Within a few moments the two men proceeded to the Officer's Club where
Captain Ingraham heard a preview of "The Pelican and the Prop", (111.6,
App.), (Exhibit 1, app.). This took place on June 26th, 1943. Captain
Ingraham become so impressed, he suggested to Colonel Carroll that Lt.
Platnick introduce the composition at the Saturday Night Dance at the
Officer's Club to which the Colonel agreed.
On Saturday evening, of that same week, after the first performance of
"The pelican and the Prop" had been enthusiastically received, Colonel
Carroll announced its acceptance as the offcial song of the DeRidder Army
The DeRidder Army Air Base was declared surplus on October 2, 1946 and
transferred to War Assets Administration on April 30, 1947. The
Parish Police Jury assumed responsibility for the airport that year. On
December 23, 1948 the government deeded the base to the Police Jury under
the terms of the Surplus Property Act.
A requirement of the deed was that the property had to remain a public
airport and all benefits of the property must be used to benefit the
airport. In this case the federal government, wisely, not only gave the
parish an airport but also gave a means by which the airport could provide
for it's own financial self-support. Today the airport includes over 4,200
acres and is, financially, self-supporting. Normally there are no tax
received from the Police Jury or City of DeRidder.
Airport revenues are generated through forestry, agriculture, fuel sales,
hanger rentals, and leases.
FAA Automated Flight Service Station
Beauregard Country Club
Bennett Timber Company
Beauregard Parish Police Jury
Dept. of Transpertation & Development
Dept. of Agriculture & Forestry (Office and 400 acre seed orchard)
La. National Guard
Smith Farms (575 acres)
Beauregard Parish Sportmans Assn.
Beauregard Parish Library
The airport is a public General Aviation facility owned by Beauregard
Parish, which has created, an airport district governed by a seven member
Board of Commissioners.
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