Photo of Willis M. Hawkins

Willis M. Hawkins

  • National Medal of Science
  • Engineering

For his contributions – through invention, development, management, and advice – to the technical health and competitive status of the United State aeronautical products, sound deterrent weapons systems, and space prowess.

For more than half a century, engineer Willis Hawkins’ legacy has soared through the skies. Hawkins was the principal designer of the C-130 Hercules, a military transport aircraft, in the 1950s. Today, more than 50 years later, the C-130 is still in production.

Hawkins first took a job at Lockheed Aircraft in 1937 and worked there on and off as both a full-time employee and a part-time consultant even after he retired in the 1980s.

For a short time during the Kennedy Administration, Hawkins also worked as assistant secretary of the Army for research and development.

Hawkins’ design was initially rejected by Lockheed, but after the company’s chief engineer gave him the go-ahead, Hawkins submitted his proposal to a government competition. The design won and the first C-130 took its first flight in 1954.

Aviation played a huge role in Hawkins’ life — he met his wife while she was working as an American Airlines flight attendant on a Valentine’s Day flight.

By Rachel Warren