Aviator and polar explorer Richard Evelyn Byrd, Jr. (1888-1957) was born on this day in the small town of Winchester, Virginia, along the Appalachian Mountains. His father was a respected historian and country lawyer.
Driven by a quest for adventure, at age 12 young Richard traveled by ship to the Philippines and began to dream of visiting the North Pole. A 1912 Annapolis graduate with a passion for flight, he served in World War I and helped create the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics in 1919.
"A static hero is a public liability. Progress grows out of motion," he observed.
Byrd became an international hero by piloting the first flight over the North Pole in 1926, an unprecedented accomplishment that celebrated his vision and tenacity. This spirit would lead him through the rest of his life.
In 1928--along with his dog, Igloo--he made his first of many expeditions to Antarctica, naming his base Little America. In 1930, he flew to and from the South Pole in just under 19 hours.
Byrd was a man of courage who found peace in solitude. Alone through a grueling Antarctic winter he wrote, "Thoughts of life and the nature of things flow smoothly, so smoothly and so naturally as to create an illusion that one is swimming harmoniously in the broad current of the cosmos."
"Few men during their lifetime comes anywhere near exhausting the resources dwelling within them," he added. "There are deep wells of strength that are never used."
Celebrate your holy dispensability!