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First Medford, Ore., Airport Honors World War I Pilot

The Medford Mail Tribune reflected the town’s excitement in describing the dedication of the first municipally owned airfield in Oregon on Sept. 6, 1920.  The newspaper article’s first sentence said, “Beautiful in its sentiment, spectacular in its thrill-features and record-breaking locally in its immense assemblage of humanity and autos, the dedication of Medford's army aviation field and the christening of it as Newell Barber Field yesterday afternoon was successful beyond the most sanguine expectations.”

Barber had been a 17-year-old Medford High School student when he joined the Army Aviation Corps two years before World War 1 began.  His plane was shot down over France in August 1918 and his body was never recovered.

Nine years after the field had opened adjacent to the old county fairgrounds, a new airport replaced it in 1929, and Barber Field became a county baseball park.  On Veterans Day last month, a ceremony placed a stone marker at the field’s location.

A few days earlier, the Mail Tribune had quoted Medford Airport Director Bern Case as saying, “It would be sad to lose the memory of the airfield, its history and the World War I pilot whose name it bore.”

Sources:  Sources: Bill Alley, Arcadia Publishing 2/7/2011 Portland, Ore. “Aviation in Southern Oregon”  https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/9780738581910/Aviation-in-Southern-Oregon; Stiles, Greg. "Nearly a century later, a Medford war hero will be honored." Mail Tribune, 9 Nov. 2016 [Medford, Ore.] , local ed., p. A3+. Accessed 10 Nov. 2016. www.mailtribune.com/news/20161109/nearly-century-later-medford-war-hero-will-be-honored; "Local Briefs," Mail Tribune [Medford, Ore.], 15 Oct. 1920, p. 2 as found on Southern Oregon History Revised. Medford Airport Notes. http://id.mind.net/~truwe/tina/airport.html.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.