November 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 7 
Boeing in the News
D O N A L D  W.  D O U G L A S  J R.  1 9 1 7 - 2 0 0 4

'Productive' and 'easy to work with'

Donald W. Douglas Jr. stands with his father Donald Willis Douglas Sr. in front of the first DC-9Donald W. Douglas Jr., son of one of the great American aviation founders and himself a former president of the Douglas Aircraft Company, died of age-related illnesses at Menifee Valley Medical Center near Hemet, Calif., on Oct. 3. He was 87.

Douglas was known as a lover of life who entered enthusiastically into many activities both within and outside the aerospace industry. "He enjoyed participating vs. spectating," said John F. McDonnell, a member of the Boeing board of directors and retired chairman of McDonnell Douglas Corp. "He was hard-charging but, at the same time, easy to work with."

"Don was a great person who was incredibly active and productive throughout his entire life," said Harry Stonecipher, president and CEO of Boeing.

Douglas was born on July 3, 1917, in Washington, D.C. He studied mechanical engineering at Stanford University and aeronautical engineering at the Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute in Glendale, Calif.

He started with his family's company in 1939 as an engineer in the strength group at the Santa Monica, Calif., facility. As his father wanted to make sure his son received a solid foundation in the aircraft business, the younger Douglas spent his first several years in many different jobs.

In 1943, he was appointed manager of flight test, his first supervisory job. There, he supervised the flight-testing of practically every type of aircraft built by Douglas during World War II, including the SDB Dauntless and C-54 Skymaster. Later, the company named him director of the testing division. The post-war DC-6 and DC-7 airliners obtained type certification under his direction.

Donald Douglas Jr. accepts a posthumous award for his father in 2003 at a Paris Air Show award ceremonyDouglas Jr. rose to vice president of the company in 1951 and was elected to the board of directors in 1953. He was named president of Douglas Aircraft in 1957, a position he held at the time of the merger of the McDonnell and Douglas companies in 1967. During this time he was responsible for the introduction of the DC-8 and DC-9 jetliners. Upon completion of the merger, he worked tirelessly to make it successful.

For four years after the merger, he served as McDonnell Douglas senior vice president of administration in St. Louis. He then became president and CEO of the Douglas Development Company, a wholly owned subsidiary formed to develop excess McDonnell Douglas real estate. In 1972 he was instrumental in the formation of a partnership with developers to build Douglas Plaza, a 50-acre complex of retail and office buildings near Orange County Airport in southern California. He retired in 1974.

After his retirement, he remained on the board of directors of McDonnell Douglas until 1989. He served as chairman of the board of governors of the Aerospace Industries Association, national vice president of the National Defense Transportation Association and an advisory board member of the Association of the U.S. Army.

Donald W. Douglas Jr. is survived by his wife, Linda; by Victoria Douglas Thoreson, his daughter by an earlier marriage; and by grandchildren Matthew Douglas Thoreson and Douglas Presley Crawford. The Douglas family has requested that memorial contributions be made to Overcoming Obstacles (, an organization that helps youths learn skills relevant to today's work environment: communication, decision making and goal setting. The organization's address is: 111 John Street, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10038.

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