Monday, July 4, 2011

John Paul Riddle, 1901-1989

John Paul Riddle Marker (Side One) Pikeville, KYPike County, KY
Marker No. 2251

Marker Text: Aviation pioneer graduated from Pikeville College Academy in 1920. Flew plane under Pikeville’s Middle Bridge on July 4, 1923. Trained as a pilot in U.S. Army, he & T. Higbee Embry founded the Embry-Riddle Flying School in Cincinnati, 1925. Incorporated four years later as part of AVCO, which later became American Airlines. Over

John Paul Riddle Marker (Side Two) Pikeville, KYFounded the Embry-Riddle School of Aviation in Miami, Fla. During WWII, trained pilots for U.S. and Britain. Later became Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Univ. Inducted into the Ky. Aviation Hall of Fame and Fla. Aviation Historical Society. Received British Empire award and honorary degrees from Pikeville College & E-R Aeronautical Univ.

Location: On Main Street near intersection with Division Streets, Pikeville, KY. Presented by the Pikeville-Pike Co. Tourism Comm. And erected by the Kentucky Historical Society – Kentucky Department of Highways in 2007.

  Eighty-eight years ago this July 4th, John Paul Riddle flew a plane under the Pikeville's Middle Bridge in Pikeville, Kentucky. I don't know what bridge in Pikeville that might be. I have only been in Pikeville twice and never had the time to figure out where the bridge mentioned was.

  John Paul Riddle was born in 1901 in Pikeville, Kentucky, Riddle had from an early age wanted to fly. He graduated from Pikeville College Academy in 1020. He secured an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, but stayed there only one year. He was disappointed that the navy only wanted to train balloonists. So Riddle became a cadet in the U.S. Army Air Service in 1921. After his discharge from full-time service, Riddle became a barnstormer and used Grisard Field in Ohio (now called the Blue Ash Airport) as a barnstorming headquarters. Of all the places that Riddle had barnstormed, he like Ohio because of its beauty with the “big open fields” and “so many places to land”, a pilot could generally put his plane down on any farm without anyone noticing.

  John Paul Riddle, trained as a pilot in the Army, began his career in aviation education in 1926 at Lunken Airport (formerly Grisard Field) in Cincinnati, when he and T. Higbee Embry, a stockyard owner, founded the Embry-Riddle Flying School.

John Paul Riddle marker on Main Street, Pikeville, KY  The school's first students were pilots for the nation's first package express business. In 1927 the school won one of the first Federal air mail contracts. The company was incorporated two years later as part of the Aviation Corporation of Delaware, later known as AVCO. That company, in turn, gave birth to American Airways, known today as American Airlines.

  The partnership with Mr. Embry dissolved, but Mr. Riddle kept the school going and in 1934 the re-formed Embry-Riddle school opened a charter seaplane service in Miami and a new flight school at Miami Municipal Airport.

  During World War II, Embry-Riddle operated three schools in Florida and one in Tennessee, training thousands of pilots from the United States and Britain. The school was moved to Daytona Beach in 1965 and renamed Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1970. It now has campuses in Daytona Beach and Prescott, Ariz.

  In 1943 Mr. Riddle opened a technical school of aviation for the Brazilian Air Ministry in Sao Paulo. In 1946 he began training civilians at the Riddle Inter-American Institute. That year, Riddle Airlines, an air cargo carrier, began operation in Miami.

  Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the only accredited, aviation-oriented university in the world. Utilizing a fleet of over 90 aircraft, the university serves culturally diverse students primarily motivated toward careers in aviation and aerospace. The university offers bachelor's and master's degrees at the residential campuses and through Embry-Riddle Worldwide. Associate's degrees and non-degree programs are also offered by Embry-Riddle Worldwide.

  John went globe-trotting with Howard Hughes and dined with the Prince of Wales. John Paul Riddle retired in the early 1960's. John Paul Riddle died after a brief illness at Cedars Medical Center in Coral Gables, Fla. at the age of 87.


  1. Thank you for writing this post. I love learning about my grandfather. My mother and I visited the marker last year; it means the world to us.

  2. I wasn't born until 1952, but growing up in Pikeville, I remember people talking about him flying under the middle bridge.

  3. I'm sorry I missed seeing those last time I was in's been a few years. My grandfather and John Paul were 1st cousins, so I guess that makes Walker and me cousins by some degree.