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  Don Lopez, NASM Deputy Dir. (1923-2008)

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Author Topic:   Don Lopez, NASM Deputy Dir. (1923-2008)

Posts: 559
From: washington dc usa
Registered: May 2004

posted 03-04-2008 10:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for thump   Click Here to Email thump     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
WWII fighter ace and current Deputy Director of the National Air and Space Museum Don Lopez passed away last evening at Duke Medical Center in Durham NC. He will surely be missed by all of us who had the pleasure of knowing him and working with him.

A moment of silence is signified by an entry with no words and only a period.

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 03-04-2008 11:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Smithsonian release
National Air and Space Museum's Deputy Director and Aviation Legend Donald Lopez Dies

Donald S. Lopez, 84, deputy director of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, died of a heart attack on March 3. Mr. Lopez had been with the Smithsonian Institution since 1972, when he became part of the team led by Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins responsible for planning the construction and opening of the National Air and Space Museum. As assistant director for Aeronautics, Lopez was instrumental in developing the exhibits that welcomed visitors at the museum's opening on July 1, 1976 and have made it the most visited museum in the world.

"The nation has lost a true hero and the Smithsonian has lost a great leader," Smithsonian Institution acting secretary Cristian Samper said. "Don Lopez was an American Ace fighter pilot, author, educator, and museum professional beloved by all who came in contact with him."

"Don's contribution to the museum cannot be overstated," museum director Gen. J.R. "Jack" Dailey said. "For 35 years, he was the guiding spirit, contributing his vast knowledge of aviation, exceptional leadership skills, unflagging enthusiasm, and a sense of humor that endeared him to all."

Lopez became deputy director in 1983, a position he held until 1990. He served as senior advisor to the director before retiring in 1993. From 1993 to 1996 Lopez served as senior advisor emeritus. He was again appointed deputy director in 1996.

Before coming to the Smithsonian, Lopez was already an aviation legend: a fighter pilot in the 23rd Fighter Group of the 14th Air Force -successors of the legendary Flying Tigers-- in China. He flew Curtiss P-40s and North American P-51 Mustangs, demonstrating his extraordinary flying skills under the leadership of famous war heroes Col. Tex Hill and Gen. Claire Chennault. During his two years in China, Lopez flew 101 missions and tallied up five victories, the required number to be recognized as an "Ace."

It was his exceptional skills as a pilot that qualified Lopez to become an Air Force test pilot, which he did after serving in combat. He completed a short combat tour flying North American F-86s in Korea. Following an assignment to the Pentagon, he earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology and a master's degree in aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology. He spent the next five years at the U.S. Air Force Academy as an associate professor of aeronautics and chief of academic counseling. After his retirement from the U.S. Air Force in 1964, Lopez worked as a Systems Engineer on the Apollo-Saturn Launch Vehicle and the Skylab Orbital Workshop for Bellcomm, Inc.

Lopez was a member of the American Fighter Aces Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association and is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. In 1995, the National Aeronautic Association named him an Elder Statesman of Aviation, and in 1999 he was presented the Federal Hispanic Heritage Month Excellence in Leadership Award. He was also a recipient of the Frank G. Brewer Trophy in Museum Education. Lopez was honored in 2007 as one of the living legends at the Gathering of Mustangs and Legends at Rickenbacker Field in Columbus, Ohio.

Lopez's publications include "Into the Teeth of the Tiger" (Bantam, 1986), "The National Air and Space Museum: A Visit in Pictures" (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989) and "Fighter Pilot's Heaven: Flight Testing the Early Jets" (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995).

Lopez is survived by his wife Glindel, his son Donald Lopez Jr., daughter Joy Lopez and granddaughter, Laura Lopez. The family has asked that anyone who would like to honor his memory make donations to the National Air and Space Museum Donald S. Lopez Memorial Fund.


Posts: 1153
From: Ossian IN USA
Registered: Oct 2007

posted 03-04-2008 11:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I met him years ago. Nice guy. RIP.



Posts: 597
From: Morris County, NJ, USA
Registered: Jan 2006

posted 03-04-2008 01:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cddfspace   Click Here to Email cddfspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


Posts: 630
From: Norfolk, VA
Registered: May 2007

posted 03-04-2008 01:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NavySpaceFan   Click Here to Email NavySpaceFan     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Rick Mulheirn

Posts: 2458
From: England
Registered: Feb 2001

posted 03-04-2008 01:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick Mulheirn   Click Here to Email Rick Mulheirn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

mark plas

Posts: 360
From: the Netherlands
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 03-05-2008 02:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mark plas   Click Here to Email mark plas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


Posts: 3043
From: London, UK
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 03-05-2008 08:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

John Youskauskas

Posts: 126
Registered: Jan 2004

posted 03-05-2008 09:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Youskauskas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mr. Lopez was a constant presence at almost every event I have had the privilege of attending at NASM. He often introduced the speakers and was always around afterward to talk to.

He was always enthusiastic and very proud of the museum he helped build. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by all.



Posts: 961
Registered: Aug 2002

posted 03-05-2008 10:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MarylandSpace   Click Here to Email MarylandSpace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I always enjoyed chatting with Mr. Lopez whether at NASM or Udvar Hazy. I did offer several times to exchange jobs with him but he passed on the offer. He was a great, yet humble, guy.



Posts: 1657
From: Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland
Registered: May 2004

posted 03-05-2008 02:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for machbusterman   Click Here to Email machbusterman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very sad news indeed. I had the pleasure of sitting beside Mr and Mrs Lopez at Chuck Yeager's talk (He provided the introduction to Yeager prior to his talk) at NASM in October 2001 and found him to be very engaging. He will be sorely missed. Godspeed Mr Lopez.

- Derek

Lou Chinal

Posts: 946
From: Staten Island, NY
Registered: Jun 2007

posted 03-05-2008 04:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


Posts: 899
From: Humboldt KS USA
Registered: Dec 2003

posted 03-06-2008 06:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdmyer   Click Here to Email mdmyer     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I did not have the chance to meet Don but I have purchased signed copies of his books In To the Teeth of the Tiger and Fighter Pilot's Heaven. I am looking forward to reading about Don and learning more about him.

Mike Myer
Humboldt KS


Posts: 451
From: Issaquah, WA U.S.A.
Registered: Jun 2002

posted 03-06-2008 09:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jake   Click Here to Email Jake     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very sad to hear... I had met him in 2001 and was VERY impressed with his passion for aviation. He was one of the best.

Jake Schultz - curator,
Newport Way Air Museum (OK, it's just my home)

New Member


posted 03-06-2008 11:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim   Click Here to Email Jim     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


Posts: 559
From: washington dc usa
Registered: May 2004

posted 03-11-2008 01:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for thump   Click Here to Email thump     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASM has set up a site where you can leave your thoughts, remembrances and condolences.


Posts: 559
From: washington dc usa
Registered: May 2004

posted 04-22-2008 12:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for thump   Click Here to Email thump     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Last evening, a memorial was held at the NASM for Don Lopez, with speakers including Ace John Alison, his AVG wingman, Apollo 11 CMP and first director of NASM Mike Collins, and lastly Don Lopez Jr. The evening was filled with stories of his wit, modesty, and love of family, country, aviation, and desserts. The IMAX theater was filled with former co-workers, friends, Aces, and members of the 75th Fighter Squadron (his former squadron), who were scheduled to perform a fly-over today at the internment (which unfortunately was cancelled due to low ceiling). Afterward, a dessert reception was held. During the reception, Mike Collins was standing next to Columbia, as if saying hello to an old friend, and was very cordial to all who approached him to say hello (I did not see anyone approach him for autographs). I'm not a very good reporter, but it was a wonderful evening and tribute to the career and life of Mr. Lopez.

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