From Annapolis I headed west through Washington, with a quick stop at NSF in Arlington, and out to Winchester, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley, the gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Apple Capital, the home of Patsy Cline and the birthplace of Richard E. Byrd. The site of the latter (263), at 326 Amherst Street, is now a used-car lot but there in front is an historical marker erected by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources in 1993. It reads:
"Q 4-g. Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd 25 October 1888 - 11 March 1957. Here was born and reared Richard Evelyn Byrd, aviator and polar explorer. A 1912 U. S. Naval Academy graduate, he received the Medal of Honor for the first flight over the North Pole in 1926, and made the first commercial nonstop transatlantic flight. In 1928 he organized and led the first of five Antarctic expeditions, and flew over the South Pole in 1929. Byrd spent the winter of 1934 alone a hundred miles from his base at Little America, conducting scientific experiments. Of his several books, the best known is Alone. Byrd is regarded as the father of the Antarctic Peace Treaty, which bans the military use of Antarctica. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery."A few blocks away, in the historic district at the corner of Braddock and West Piccadilly Streets stands the extraordinary Beaux Arts style Handley Regional Library (264), also the home of the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society. According to the written 'Scope and Content,' the "collection is comprised of correspondence, newsletters and clippings, pictures, magazines, memos and medals, and memorabilia concerning...Byrd, and primarily his transflight and exploration of the Antarctic region." There are a number of items of local interest such as the program of the 1930 Handley High School homecoming honoring Byrd; correspondence to the Rotary Club of Winchester; the program of the Historical Society's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the South Polar flight; and much on the Byrd statue recently dedicated in Winchester.
A short few blocks away, in front of the Winchester/Frederick County Joint Judicial Center on Cameron Street stands the recently dedicated (July 14, 1997) life size bronze statue of Byrd, sculpted by Dr Jay Morton (265). The Admiral stands dressed in polar (arctic) garb, his right hand stretching down to Igloo, his loyal terrier. Art critics may wish to express their views on this work but I'll decline, publicly at least. The inscription on the plaque below reads:
"Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd 1888-1957.
The Winchester native attended The Virginia Military Institute, The University of Virginia, and graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy, 1912.
He was a pioneer aviator and Polar explorer. In 1926, he was the first to fly over the North Pole for which he was awarded the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor. In 1927, with three companions, he flew the Atlantic, flight time 42 hours.
Admiral Byrd commanded five expeditions to the Antarctic to explore the unknown regions from the air. In 1929, Byrd, as navigator, with three companions, became the first to fly to the South Pole returning to his base Little America located on the face of the Ross Ice Shelf, a 19 hour flight.
In 1933, a second Byrd expedition extended the exploration of Antarctica and continued scientific observations. During the Antarctic winter of 1934, Byrd spent five months alone in a hut at a weather station named Bolling Advance Base. The base was named for his mother who lived at 326 Amherst Street, Winchester, where the Admiral was born.
Admiral Byrd commanded three subsequent expeditions and discovered and mapped 537,000 miles of Antarctic territory. He was officially cited 22 times for bravery of consipcuous conduct.
Admiral Byrd is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Dr. Jay Morton, Sculptor Commemorated July 14, 1997"