J. David George not only revived his hometown's Fourth of July parade, he added an aerial attraction with a flyover by a stealth bomber.
J. David George loves a parade. So in 1997, when the Indianapolis-based Salomon Smith Barney broker read in the newspaper that the annual July 4th parade in Bedford, Ind., was going to be canceled, he wasn't happy. He flew into action.
The paper blamed the cancellation on lack of funds and volunteers. But within six weeks, George had contacted area businessmen, local bands, service organizations, the Scottish Bagpipe Band that plays at the Indianapolis 500, civic organizations and people who owned fancy cars and antique tractors. To wow the crowd, he even arranged a flyover by a B-2 stealth bomber. “There was some dramatic appeal,” George says. “The stealth was new back then and people wanted to see it.”
He went to great lengths for nostalgic reasons. “I grew up on a farm outside Bedford,” George says. “I used to ride a horse in the parade and thought it was a shame that the parade was canceled. There's a real sense of Americana there. The newspaper said parades were outdated. I didn't buy into that.”
Neither did the 15,000 people who showed up July 4, 1997, to watch the parade George organized. Not bad for a town of 12,000 people. “I saw it as a way to give something back,” he says.
A few years later, George gave something else back. He arranged for a stealth bomber to be named after the Hoosier State.
While helping his brother move from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, George noticed all stealth bombers were named after states, such as the Spirit of Missouri and the Spirit of California. To George's amazement, Indiana did not have a bomber in its name.
So he researched Indiana aviation history — and found lots of it. Wilbur Wright was born in Indiana. So was Mercury and Gemini astronaut Gus Grissom. Neil Armstrong went to school there. Purdue University has graduated more then 20 astronauts into the U.S. space program.
With virtually the entire Indiana Congressional delegation, the governor, the state assembly and thousands of Hoosiers writing letters, the Air Force responded. The 20th stealth bomber was christened the Spirit of Indiana in May 1999.
George's dedication to the community leaves two legacies. The first is a reinvigorated celebration of Independence Day. The second will be an eye-popping attraction at a local museum.
During his stealth naming campaign, George learned that Northrup Grumman had produced a lifelike but useless 23-foot, 800-pound scale model of the bomber. He persuaded the firm to donate it to the Indiana World War Memorial Museum in downtown Indianapolis. The $20,000 mock-up will eventually be part of its Post-Cold-War history display.
For 2001, George was given the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award.