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*Emory Malick was born on this date in 1881. He was a Black aviator.
Emory Conrad Malick grew up in central Pennsylvania, first in Seven Points, then in nearby Sunbury, PA. There he built his gliders and flew them across the Susquehanna River to his job as a farmhand and carpenter over Cattie Weiser’s farm. By 1910, Malick had taken his aviation skills to Philadelphia, where he later transported passengers for the Flying Dutchman Air Service and took aerial photographs for Dallin Aerial Surveys. He also worked as a carpenter and master tile-layer.
Malick was the first licensed Black aviator, earning his International Pilot’s License (Federation Aeronautique Internationale, or F.A.I., license), #105, on March 20, 1912. While attending the Curtiss Aviation School on North Island, San Diego, California, when he was 31 years old, making him also the first Black person to get a pilot’s license in the United States. After earning his pilot’s license, Malick obtained, assembled, and improved upon a Curtiss “pusher” biplane. In 1914 he flew over Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, becoming the first pilot to soar through the skies of Snyder and Northumberland, Counties.
In March 1928, Malick took two passengers for a quick hop in his Waco three-seater at a Camden, New Jersey, airshow. They were barely aloft when the engine died. Malick banked to the left to avoid spectators; unfortunately, the wind caught the aircraft, and the Waco crashed. “The entire plane seemed to crumple as if it had been smitten by the fist of a giant,” reported the Sunbury (Pennsylvania) Daily Item. The two passengers were injured. Later that year, Malick crashed again. The cause isn’t known. This time injuring himself and killing his passenger. He never flew again.
He remained interested in aviation; at a flying club banquet, Malick displayed the 60-horsepower engine that powered his 1914 flight over the town. But the aviator refused all opportunities to go flying. Documents at the Snyder County Historical Society say that in the 1930s, when local pilots offered to take Malick flying, he would reply, “I had my fun, and now I’m done.”
In December 1958, when he was 77 years old, Malick slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk in Philadelphia. He died in the hospital. With no identification, his body was unclaimed in the morgue for more than a month until his identity could be established.