JACQUELINE COCHRAN Biography - Famous Sports men and women


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Name: Jacqueline Cochran                                                                 
Born: 11 May 1906 Muscogee, Florida                                                     
Died 9 August 1980 Indio, California                                                     
Occupation Aviator, test pilot, spokesperson, and businessperson                         
Jacqueline Cochran (11 May 1906 – 9 August 1980) was a pioneer American aviator,       
considered to be one of the most gifted race pilots of her generation. Her               
contributions to the formation of the wartime Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC)       
and WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) were also significant.                         
Bessie Lee Pittman was born near Mobile, Alabama, the youngest of the five               
children of Mary (Grant) and Ira Pittman, a skilled millwright who moved from           
town to town setting up and reworking saw mills. While not rich, Jackie's               
childhood living in small-town Florida was similar to most other families of             
that time and place. Contrary to some accounts, there was always food on the             
table and she was not adopted, as she often claimed.                                     
Jackie married Robert Cochran, a young aircraft mechanic from the nearby naval           
base at Pensacola, at a young age. They were married in Blakeley, Georgia on             
November 13, 1920. Jackie gave birth to Robert Cochran Jr. four months later.           
The couple and child moved to Miami where they lived for four years. Filing for         
divorce, Jackie moved back to northwest Florida, settling in DeFuniak Springs,           
where her parents were then living. Not quite five years old, Robert Cochran Jr.         
died a tragic death after he set his clothes on fire while playing alone in the         
Jackie (Bessie Lee) then became a hairdresser and got a job in Pensacola,               
eventually winding up in New York City. There, she used her looks and driving           
personality to get a job at a prestigious salon at Saks Fifth Avenue. Somewhere         
along the line, she chose to change her name from Mrs Bessie Cochran to Miss             
Jackie Cochran.                                                                         
Although Jackie denied her family and her past, she remained in touch with her           
family and provided for them over the years. Some of her family even moved to           
her ranch in California after she remarried. However, they were instructed to           
always say they were her adopted family. Jackie apparently wanted to hide from           
the public the early chapters of her life and was successful in doing so until           
after her death.                                                                         
Only later did she meet Floyd Bostwick Odlum, middle-aged founder of Atlas Corp.         
and CEO of RKO in Hollywood. Widely reputed to be one of the ten richest men in         
the world, Odlum quickly became enamored with Jackie and offered to help her             
establish a cosmetics business.                                                         
After a friend offered her a ride in an aircraft, a thrilled Jackie Cochran             
began taking flying lessons at Roosevelt Airfield, Long Island in the early 1930s.       
She learned to fly an airplane in just three weeks. A natural, she quickly               
soloed and within two years obtained her commercial pilot's license. Odlum, whom         
she married in 1936 after his divorce, was an astute financier and savvy                 
marketer who recognized the value of publicity for her business. Calling her             
line of cosmetics "Wings," she flew her own aircraft around the country                 
promoting her products. Years later, Odlum used his Hollywood connections to get         
Marilyn Monroe to endorse her line of lipstick.                                         
Known by her friends as "Jackie," and maintaining the Cochran name, she flew her         
first major race in 1934. In 1937, she was the only woman to compete in the             
Bendix race. She worked with Amelia Earhart to open the race for women. That             
year, she also set a new woman's national speed record. By 1938, she was                 
considered the best female pilot in the United States. She had won the Bendix           
and set a new transcontinental speed record as well as altitude records (by this         
time she was no longer just breaking woman's records but was setting overall             
records). She was the first woman to break the sound barrier (with Chuck                 
Yeager right on her wing), the first woman to fly a jet across the ocean, and           
the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic. She won five Harmon                 
Trophies as the outstanding woman pilot in the world. Sometimes called the "Speed       
Queen," at the time of her death, no pilot, man or woman, held more speed,               
distance or altitude records in aviation history, than Jackie Cochran.                   
Before the United States joined World War II, she was part of "Wings for Britain"       
that delivered American built aircraft to Britain and she became the first woman         
to fly a bomber (a Lockheed Hudson V) across the Atlantic. In Britain, she               
volunteered her services to the Royal Air Force. For several months she worked           
for the British Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), recruiting qualified women pilots         
in the United States and taking them to England where they joined the Air               
Transport Auxiliary. In September 1940, with the war raging throughout Europe,           
Jackie Cochran wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt to introduce the proposal of starting         
a women's flying division in the Army Air Forces. She felt that qualified women         
pilots could do all of the domestic, noncombat aviation jobs necessary in order         
to release more male pilots for combat. She pictured herself in command of these         
women, with the same standings as Oveta Culp Hobby, who was then in charge of           
the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC). (The WAAC was given full military               
status on 1 July 1943, thus making them part of the Army. At the same time, the         
unit was renamed Women's Army Corps [WAC].)