Charles Fountain Willis, Jr. – Commander, United States Navy

From a contemporary news report

Charles F. Willis, Jr., a highly decorated World War II aviator and Eisenhower Administration official who coined the phrase “I Like Ike,” died of cancer March 16, 1993 at the Washington, D.C. Hospital Center. He was born in Beaumont, Texas, and graduated from the University of Florida.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1940 and as a fighter pilot in World War II he flew three tours of duty, receiving twenty-three major medals and commendations, including the Purple Heart and three Distinguished Flying Crosses.

He flew in a squadron of long-range patrol bombers called “The Black Cats,” and his military accomplishments earned him the nickname “The Fabulous Character,” after his plane of the same name. During the war he accomplished several firsts, including flying into the eye of a Tyhpoon in order to learn its course, allowing Admiral William F. Halsey to plan his attack against Okinawa. He was also the first Navy pilot to fly the North Atlantic non-stop while covering an Allied convoy.

After his military service. he started Willis Air Service, a worldwide freight airline. He also founded a school of aeronautics and two national airport service businesses. He entered the politial arena when he co-founded and helped manage “Citizens for Eisenhower,” a grass-roots organization that spread the “I Like Ike” slogan. Willis later served as a Special Assistant to the President and was appointed Finance Chairman and National Chairman of the U.S. Committee for the United Nations.

He returned to aviation as president, chief executive officer and chairman of Alaska Airlines, where heintroduced practices such as in-flight movies and music. He was a charter member of the Aviation Hall of Fame.

He is buried in Section 1 of Arlington National Cemetery.

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