CYRUS R. SMITH
Former President of American Airlines
Kappa Sigma Man of the Year, 1937
Cyrus R. Smith became president of American Airlines in 1934 at the age of 35. A true aviation pioneer and a major force within the entire airline industry, Smith took American from a small and unprofitable carrier and built it into the largest airline in the world. Known as "Mr. C.R.," or simply "C.R." to all of his employees, he consolidated American's routes into a highly efficient network and standardized the company's collection of various airplanes with a fleet of new DC-3 aircraft. Smith was influential in the design of the DC-3, which would become the "workhorse" of passenger planes in the 1930s and 1940s.
Smith led American Airlines into the jet age with the introduction of the first transcontinental jet service on January 25, 1959. In early 1968, Smith retired as chief executive of American Airlines when his longtime friend, President Lyndon B. Johnson, appointed him Secretary of Commerce. In 1973, American's Board of Directors asked him to return as interim chairman while they searched for a permanent chief executive.
Following his retirement, Smith remained active in civic affairs in Washington, D.C. He died on April 4, 1990, at the age of 90 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.