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Wings of Opportunity: The Wright Brothers in Montgomery, Alabama, 1910

Julie Hedgepeth Williams

NewSouth Books
$19.95 paperback with flaps
6 x 9  
176 pages
50 black-and-white photographs
January 2010

In 1910, Orville and Wilbur Wright opened the first American civilian flight school in Montgomery, Alabama. The Wright brothers hoped to find a climate warmer and more hospitable to flying than their company base of snowy Dayton, Ohio. Forward-thinking Montgomerians welcomed the Wrights and heralded the school as a way to rise above the shadow of the Civil War.

Author Julie Hedgepeth Williams chronicles the short life of this flight school as seen mainly through the eyes of the Alabama press, whose reporting and sometimes misreporting "reflected the misconceptions, hopes, dreams, and fears about aviation in 1910, painting a picture of a time when flight was untested, unsteady, and unavailable to most people."


"In Wings of Opportunity, Julie Williams vividly recreates the complex tale of civic pride, two aviation pioneers who had little interest in public image, local journalists who didn't know what to make of them, and the facination of ordinary citizens with the amazing invention of flight. An accomplished historian, Dr. Williams shows with this account that she is also a masterful storyteller."
—David Sloan, Co-Founder, American Journalism Historians Association
"The Wright brothers' Montgomery, Alabama flight school opened in 1910. Their aircraft was powered by a thirty-five horsepower engine. The flying machine was made of wood, cloth, and wire. It was both crude and flimsy, but it did fly. The brothers brought something else to Montgomery. As Julie Williams points out, airplanes and airships were hot items in everyone's imagination during this moment in American history. The 78,000 residents living in Montgomery owed their existence to cotton, corn, and timber. It was a tough life, but now there was something that stirred the imagination of these hard-working folks. The airplane had come to town and it was love at first sight. Today, as we fly in comfort across our country, we should pause and remember how it all started. We owe special thanks to the Wright brothers and also to Dr. Williams for this well researched and most enjoyable book."
—Bill Barnes, World War II Pilot and Historian