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Some of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Putnam, CP-522000-01, -80, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.


Your copy of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-0-1.


http://www.cafepress.com/content/global/img/spacer.gifThe Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of www.dmairfield.org and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link, or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.  ISBN 978-0-9843074-4-9.


Putnam has a modest Web presence, mostly related to his publications and some related to his business dealings with Chicago & Southern and Delta Airlines.


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Carlton Putnam, Ca. 1939 (Source: NASM)
Carlton Putnam, Ca. 1939 (Source: NASM)

Carlton Putnam was born December 19, 1901 and died of pneumonia March 5, 1998 at age 96. He learned to fly in 1930 at Valley Stream, LI, NY. He held commercial pilot certificate number 12975. According to this REFERENCE, as of 1942 he had accumulated 1,025 flight hours.

He landed at Tucson once, on Thursday, April 3, 1930 at 6:45PM. He carried a single passenger identified as Dr. Bradburg. They did not identify their home base, but they arrived from Phoenix, AZ. They flew in the Curtiss Robin NC509N. They remained overnight at Tucson, departing the next morning eastbound to Lordsburg, NM at an unidentified time.

Putnam was an educated man, having graduated from Princeton University in 1924 with a science degree and with honors in history and politics. He attended Harvard University Law School from 1925-26, and earned a law degree from Columbia University in 1932. He married Elizabeth Perrow on November 15, 1934.

Like many young people of the era, he developed an interest in aviation. He organized in 1933, and was president of, a small airline in California, Pacific Seaboard Air Lines, that traveled between Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA. It is not clear if his flight through Tucson was in early support of that effort.

His NASM biographical file (cited, left sidebar) is particularly slim, containing only this photograph, above, with the notation that in 1939 Putnam was President of the Chicago & Southern Airlines, Inc. He was based at his General Offices, Municipal Airport, Memphis, TN. Chicago and Southern was a successful line, which he founded in 1934, and merged with Delta in 1953. Putnam served on the Delta board until he died.

Putnam became an author in 1958 when he put on his honors historian cap and published "Theodore Roosevelt: The Formative Years." Envisioned as a 4-volume biography, he stopped at volume one, even though his book received critical acclaim. His interest turned to anthropology instead, and he wrote two books during the 1960s.

The first was titled "Race and Reason: A Yankee View" (1961). It was an overt defense of racial segregation, written in a direct critical response to the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision. He followed up with "Race and Reality: A Search for Solutions" (1967). This book purported to put a fine point on his ideology exposed in his 1961 book. Although you can pay for a copy at Amazon, both books are commonly available online at the links as free PDF downloads. As you might imagine, supremacist Web sites are free sources.

Please note: The links provided are NOT an indication that your Webmaster, this Web site or Delta Mike Airfield, Inc. support or adhere to the views expressed in Putnam's books. They are, in fact, specious and chilling reads. Please review the qualification in the right sidebar.

That said, the genesis of his 1961 book was straight forward. Putnam published a "letter" on January 5, 1959 that laid out his issues against racial integration. It was picked up and republished by hundreds of newspapers, especially in the south, as justification for reversing Brown.

His letter became so popular it was known as "The Putnam Letter" The New York Times published a version of it as a full-page, paid advertisement, signed by numerous sponsors. Attached to Putnam's letter was an invitation to readers to send him their thoughts. He received thousands. That collection of thoughts contributed to the body of "Race and Reason." The Putnam Letter led to the formation of "The Putnam Letter Committee." The Committee's job was, through fund-raising and propaganda distribution, to transmit southern conservative viewpoints outside the south.

On October 13, 1958, Putnam also sent a letter to then President Eisenhower along the same lines of his original letter. It is quoted below from his "Race and Reason" book (pp. 4-6).

A few days ago I was reading over Justice Frankfurter's opinion in the recent Little Rock case. Three sentences in it tempt me to write you this letter. I am a Northerner, but I have spent a large part of my life as a business executive in the South. I have a law degree, but I am now engaged in historical writing. From this observation post I risk the presumption of a comment.
The sentences I wish to examine are these: "Local customs, however hardened by time, are not decreed in heaven. Habits and feelings they engender may be counteracted and moderated. Experience attests that such local habits and feelings will yield, gradually though this be, to law and education."

It is my personal conviction that the local customs in this case were "hardened by time" for a very good reason, and that while they may not, as Frankfurter says, have been decreed in heaven, they come closer to it than the current view of the Supreme Court. I was particularly puzzled by Frankfurter's remark that "the Constitution is not the formulation of the merely personal views of the members of this court." Five minutes before the court's desegregation decision, the Constitution meant one thing; five minutes later, it meant something else. Only one thing intervened, namely, an expression of the personal views of the members of the court.

It is not my purpose to dispute the point with which the greater part of Frankfurter's opinion is concerned. The law must be obeyed. But I think the original desegregation decision was wrong, that it ought to be reversed, and that meanwhile every legal means should be found, not to disobey it, but to avoid it. Failing this, the situation should be corrected by constitutional amendment.

I cannot agree that this is a matter involving "a few states" as Frankfurter suggests. The picture in reality is of a court, by one sudden edict, forcing upon the entire South a view, and a way of life, with which the great majority of the population are in complete disagreement. Although not from the legal, in fact from the practical, standpoint the North, which does not have the problem, is presuming to tell the South, which does have the problem, what to do.
To me there is a frightening arrogance in this performance. Neither the North, nor the court, has any holy mandate inherent in the trend of the times or the progress of liberalism to reform society in the South. In the matter of schools, rights to equal education are inseparably bound up with rights to freedom of association and, in the South at least, may require that both be considered simultaneously. (In using the word "association" here, I mean the right to associate with whom you please, and the right not to associate with whom you please.)

Moreover, am I not correct in my recollection that it was the social stigma of segregation and its effect upon the Negro's "mind and heart" to which the court objected as much as to any other, and thus that the court, in forcing the black man's right to equal education was actually determined to violate the white man's right to freedom of association?

In any case the crux of this issue would seem obvious: social status has to be earned. Or, to put it another way, equality of association has to be mutually agreed to and mutually desired. It cannot be achieved by legal fiat. Personally, I feel only affection for the Negro. But there are facts that have to be faced. Any man with two eyes in his head can observe a Negro settlement in the Congo, can study the pure-blooded African in his native habitat as he exists when left on his own resources, can compare this settlement with London or Paris, and can draw his own conclusions regarding relative levels of character and intelligence—or that combination of character and intelligence which is civilization. Finally, he can inquire as to the number of pure-blooded blacks who have made contributions to great literature or engineering or medicine or philosophy or abstract science. (I do not include singing or athletics as these are not primarily matters of character and intelligence.) Nor is there any validity to the argument that the Negro "hasn't been given a chance." We were all in caves or trees originally. The progress which the pure-blooded black has made when left to himself, with a minimum of white help or hindrance, genetically or otherwise, can be measured today in the Congo.

Lord Bryce, a distinguished and impartial foreign observer, presented the situation accurately in his American Commonwealth when he wrote in 1880:

"History is a record of the progress towards civilization of races originally barbarous. But that progress has in all cases been slow and gradual … Utterly dissimilar is the case of the African Negro, caught up in and whirled along with the swift movement of the American democracy. In it we have a singular juxtaposition of the most primitive and the most recent, the most rudimentary and the most highly developed types of culture … A body of savages is violently carried across the ocean and set to work as slaves on the plantations of masters who are three or four thousand years in advance of them in mental capacity and moral force … Suddenly, even more suddenly than they were torn from Africa, they find themselves, not only freed, but made full citizens and active members of the most popular government the world has seen, treated as fit to bear an equal part in ruling, not only themselves, but also their recent masters."

One does not telescope three or four thousand years into the 70 years since Bryce wrote. One may change the terms of the problem by mixed breeding, but if ever there was a matter that ought to be left to local option it would seem to be the decision as to when the mixture has produced an acceptable amalgam in the schools. And I see no reason for penalizing a locality that does not choose to mix.

I would emphatically support improvement of education in Negro schools, if and where it is inferior. Equality of opportunity and equality before the law, when not strained to cover other situations, are acceptable ideals because they provide the chance to earn and to progress—and consequently should be enforced by legal fiat as far as is humanly possible. But equality of association, which desegregation in Southern schools involves, pre-supposes a status which in the South the average Negro has not earned. To force it upon the Southern white will, I think, meet with as much opposition as the prohibition amendment encountered in the wet states.

Throughout this controversy there has been frequent mention of the equality of man as a broad social objective. No proposition in recent years has been clouded by more loose thinking. Not many of us would care to enter a poetry contest with Keats, nor play chess with the national champion, nor set our character beside Albert Schweitzer's. When we see the doctrine of equality contradicted everywhere around us in fact, it remains a mystery why so many of us continue to give it lip service in theory, and why we tolerate the vicious notion that status in any field need not be earned.

Pin down the man who uses the word "equality," and at once the evasions and qualifications begin. As I recall, you, yourself, in a recent statement used some phrase to the effect that men were "equal in the sight of God." I would be interested to know where in the Bible you get your authority for this conception. There is doubtless authority in Scripture for the concept of potential equality in the sight of God—after earning that status, and with various further qualifications—but where is the authority for the sort of ipso facto equality suggested by your context? The whole idea contradicts the basic tenet of the Christian and Jewish religions that status is earned through righteousness and is not an automatic matter. What is true of religion and righteousness is just as true of achievement in other fields. And what is true among individuals is just as true of averages among races.

The confusion here is not unlike the confusion created by some left-wing writers between the doctrine of equality and the doctrine of Christian love. The command to love your neighbor is not a command either to consider your neighbor your equal, or yourself his equal; perhaps the purest example of great love without equality is the love between parent and child. In fact the equality doctrine as a whole, except when surrounded by a plethora of qualifications, is so untenable that it falls to pieces at the slightest thoughtful examination.

Frankfurter closes his opinion with a quotation from Abraham Lincoln, to whom the Negro owes more than to any other man. I, too, would like to quote from Lincoln. At Charleston, Illinois, in September 1858 in a debate with Douglas, Lincoln said:

"I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races; I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor qualifying them to hold office … I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And in as much as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."

The extent to which Lincoln would have modified these views today, or may have modified them before his death, is a moot question, but it is clear on its face that he would not have been in sympathy with the Supreme Court's position on desegregation. Many historians have felt that when Lincoln died the South lost the best friend it had. This also may be moot, but again it seems clear that for 94 years—from the horrors of Reconstruction through the Supreme Court's desegregation decision—the North has been trying to force the black man down the white Southerner's throat, and it is a miracle that relations between the races in the South have progressed as well as they have.

Perhaps the most discouraging spectacle is the spectacle of Northern newspapers dwelling with pleasure upon the predicament of the Southern parent who is forced to choose between desegregation and no school at all for his child. It does not seem to occur to these papers that this is the cruelest sort of blackmail; that the North is virtually putting a pistol at the head of the Southern parent in a gesture which every Northerner must contemplate with shame.
Indeed, there now seems little doubt that the court's recent decision has set back the cause of the Negro in the South by a generation. He may force his way into white schools, but he will not force his way into white hearts nor earn the respect he seeks. What evolution was slowly and wisely achieving, revolution has now arrested, and the trail of bitterness will lead far.

This letter was, in turn, widely published in mostly southern newspapers. However, to balance the perspective, letters he composed and submitted later in the 1960s were refused by newspapers "of controlling influence," according to Putnam, either for publication on the editorial page, or in paid advertisements. "Race and Reality" page 28 states, "... both the money and the advertisement were refused by all the papers which mattered most, in all the cities where it would have had the most influence, namely, New York, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles."

Putnam's obituary appeared in the New York Times of March 16, 1998. Compare it with the two other from different sources that follow. From the New York Times:

Carleton Putnam Dies at 96; Led Delta and Wrote on Race

By ROBERT McG. THOMAS Jr. Published: March 16, 1998

Carleton Putnam, who helped create a major airline, wrote an acclaimed biography of Theodore Roosevelt, and then, driven by opposition to the Supreme Court's 1954 school desegregation decision, turned out a classic defense of racial segregation, died on March 5 at his home in Charlottesville, Va. He was 96 and a former chairman of Delta Air Lines.

It must seem curious that a 1924 Princeton graduate who professed a passionate belief in the power of the individual and exemplified it during a life of diverse achievement should see a person's race, not the person, as the engine of individual accomplishment.

Certainly by the time Mr. Putnam became an eloquent opponent of integration he had accomplished a lot.

Within a year after graduating from Columbia law school in 1932, Mr. Putnam, a well-born New Yorker with roots deep in New England history, had started a shoestring coastal airline in California.

Within a year after that, in 1934, he had secured a lucrative Chicago-to-New Orleans mail route, relocated his fledgling airline to Memphis and begun the expansion that would lead in 1953 to merger with Delta in the largest airline combination up to that time.

After a year as Delta's chairman, Mr. Putnam abruptly changed course, moved to Washington to be near the Library of Congress and wrote ''Theodore Roosevelt,'' a work that won the respect of later biographers. Conceived as the first of four volumes, the book covered the first 28 years of the President's life.

Mr. Putnam changed course again, abandoning the biography and taking up the cause of racial segregation.

The issue was Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that outlawed school segregation, but Mr. Putnam was not drawn into the fray until 1958. After reading a Life magazine editorial supporting the decision he wrote a reply, sending a copy to an editor friend in Memphis who published it in The Commercial Appeal.

Spurred by an outpouring of favorable comment, Mr. Putnam composed an even longer letter, addressed to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and published in The Richmond Times-Democrat.

Within weeks, the ''Putnam letter,'' as it became known, had been published in newspapers all over the South, creating a huge demand for reprints and drawing thousands of letters of support.

Mr. Putnam early on had asked editors to send him only those responses that criticized his position. He used those letters as the basis for a 1961 book, ''Race and Reason, a Yankee View.''

With his letter taking up only 5 pages, Mr. Putnam devoted most of the 125-page book to rebutting his critics point by point.

Seeing the 1954 decision as a result of an insidious campaign for ''equalitarianism'' by the anthropologist Franz Boas and other social scientists, Mr. Putnam took pains to discredit their work.

To be sure, it was an approach that had been invited by the Supreme Court. Constrained by a half-century-old precedent establishing the dogma of separate but equal, the 1954 Court could hardly rule that separate was obviously, manifestly, transparently and self-evidently unequal.

Instead, in reaching its conclusion that separate schools are inherently unequal the court relied on an array of modern sociological evidence.

Mr. Putnam devoted much of his book to arguing that when it came to the personal characteristics that produced the glories of Western civilization, the Negro race could not hold a candle to the white race.

The evidence he amassed was so impressive and so thoughtfully presented, it was easy to overlook the fact that it was irrelevant. The Supreme Court, after all, had not used sociological evidence to establish that black people were the intellectual equals of white people but only that they had been harmed by forced segregation. As citizens they were entitled to equal protection of the laws.

Whatever its flaws, by the time he published a sequel, ''Race and Reality,'' in 1967, ''Race and Reason,'' had sold more than 150,000 copies, been widely embraced by Southern politicians and made required reading for teachers and advanced students in Louisiana.

It is testimony to its power of persuasion in some quarters that, by his own account, reading the book as a self-described ''liberal'' junior high school student sent David Duke on the course that led him to become a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

When it became apparent that his campaign was in vain, Mr. Putnam withdrew from public life. His wife said she did not know if his views had changed.

Mr. Putnam, whose first marriage ended in divorce, is survived by his wife, Esther, their daughter, Louise Putnam-Stoner of Charlottesville; a stepdaughter, Eve Lilley of Washington, and three grandchildren.

The Princeton Alumni Weekly covered only his passing in their May 20, 1998 issue as follows.

Carleton Putnam '24

Published in May 20, 1998 issue

Carleton Putnam, airline pioneer, biographer, and writer, died Mar. 5, 1998, at his home in Charlottesville, Va., of pneumonia.

After Princeton, he became an aviation enthusiast. He earned his LLB in 1932 from Columbia Law School. Instead of practicing law, he turned a small California airline into a larger midwestern airline, Chicago and Southern, which merged into Delta in 1953. He was Delta's chairman of the board. He moved to Virginia to be near the Library of Congress, where he researched the early life of Theodore Roosevelt. His book Theodore Roosevelt: The Formative Years appeared in 1958 to critical acclaim.

In a Newsweek interview, Carleton said, "I decided early in life, being an American, that I would like to satisfy two needs of my nature. One was the need for the life of action, the other was the need for the life of the mind." He remained on the board of Delta until his death. He was a trustee of the Theodore Roosevelt Assn. and a member of the Cosmos, Chevy Chase, and Princeton Clubs.

He is survived by his wife, Esther MacKenzie Willcox Aughincloss, a daughter, three grandchildren, a stepdaughter, and three stepgrandchildren. He was previously married to Lucy Chapman Putnam.

Another online obituary is at the link (scroll down to the bottom of that page). It is quoted below.

CARLETON PUTNAM, 96, former chairman of Delta Air Lines and outspoken opponent of racial integration, died March 5, 1998, in Charlottesville, VA. Putnam embarked on a campaign to fight integration at the time of Brown vs Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that outlawed school segregation. He wrote a reply to a Life magazine editorial supporting the decision, which was published in the Richmond Times-Democrat. Within weeks, the "Putnam letter," as it became known, had been published in newspapers all over the South, creating a huge demand for reprints and drawing thousands of letters of support, which he used as the basis for Race and Reason, A Yankee View (1961). Seeing the 1954 decision as a result of an insidious campaign for "equalitarianism" by anthropologist Franz Boas and other social scientists, Putnam took pains to discredit their work. Putnam devoted much of his book to arguing that when it came to personal characteristics that produced the glories of Western civilization, the Negro race could not hold a candle to the white race. The evidence he amassed was so impressive and thoughtfully presented, it was easy to overlook the fact that it was irrelevant. The Supreme Court, after all, had not used sociological evidence to establish that black people were the intellectual equals of white people, but only that they had been harmed by forced segregation. Whatever their capacities, as citizens they were entitled to equal protection of the laws. By the time Putnam published a sequel, Race and Reality (1967), Race and Reason had sold more than 150,000 copies, been widely embraced by Southern politicians and made required reading for teachers and advanced students in Louisiana. It is testimony to its power of persuasion in some quarters that, by his own account, reading the book as a self-described "liberal" junior high school student sent David Duke on the course that led him to become a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Anyone who kept up with the news understood that Putnam's outlook and philosophy were being eclipsed as the 20th century approached its final years. Given the judicial climate and national opinion, "separate but equal" was not tenable, let alone legal.

The good news is that Putnam put his ideology on the line for the public to see. The bad news is, as of the upload date of this page, there are still many people out there who think like him. But, insidiously, most of them keep their thoughts to themselves and manifest their racism in other, more subtle ways.


Dossier 2.1.130


The Register
I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot Putnam and his airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.


For Mr. Putnam's page, it is worth repeating the clarification from the right sidebar of the Home Page of this Web site. To wit:


"This Web site includes history, analysis and commentary about the Golden Age of Aviation, which comprises roughly 1920-1940. It includes accounts summarized from personal anecdotes, news media and other publications of the era.

"Some of these contain references to race and gender that are clearly racist and sexist when interpreted according to 21st century social values. These references are not reinterpreted or edited by your Webmaster for contemporary readers. Rather, they are reported as is with the understanding that your Webmaster has no intention whatsoever of demeaning or attaching any differential value to any race, gender, creed or belief.""


See also the site's Code of Ethics (PDF 128kB).

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