Walter Hammond Righter (1905 - 1982)

An Illustrated Biography by his daughter, Frances Jean Righter Tucker © 2005


Last Updated : July 17, 2005

I dedicate this work to the memory of my loving father, Walter H. Righter.

This work would not have been possible without the help and support of the following people to who I owe much thanks.

Reginald Denny Jr. Reg Denny Jr.: California, USA

As a boy, Reg Jr. (b.1932) often accompanied his father to both model aviation events and eventually, the trials of the "Radioplane" drones. Reg has provided not only family photographs but also first hand memories of those pivotal events of 1938 and 1939 which have been vital to the research process.

One day Reg took Russell to Fort Macarthur, site of the very first test flight of the RP-1 drone, powered by Walt's first twin cylinder engine. The flight ended abruptly with radio problems but the army personnel were so impressed that, as they say, 'the rest is history'.

Reg and his wife Diane run a large plastics company and enjoy a love of the sea handed down from Reg's father and regularly take out 'the boat' for a spin around the waters off San Pedro.

Debbie (Denny) McBride Debbie Denny McBride: Oregon, USA

Reginald Jr.'s younger sister Debbie (b.1937), sadly too young to witness much of the "Radioplane" developmental years, has however provided us with family photographs and memories of her Dad in his 'other' careers as a WW1 pilot and stage and screen actor from 1898 until his death in 1967.

Debbie and her husband Pat enjoy their large family of horses, dogs and cats on a farm in Oregon and by day, run a company that makes and sells a new high tech, extremely weatherproof paint for both home and commercial applications.

Jim Dunkin Jim Dunkin: Missouri, USA

Argueably the world's most authoritative expert on my father's classic Dennymite model engine, Jim, an engine collector and author has provided a wealth of photos and data on this aspect of my father's work.

Jim's vast model engine collection includes examples of "Dennymite" development from his prized #5 of the first ten production models, right through to examples made and sold by Pacific Airmotive Corp. (PAC) and others. Meanwhile, my father concentrated on drone engine development and manufacture.

Jim, ably assisted by his wife Sally, is currently writing what he hopes will be the definitive book on my father's engines including not only the "Dennymites", but the large range of two and four cylinder engines used on the "Radioplane" target drones.

Pete Soule Pete Soule: California, USA

Aviator, aviation writer, former championship control line model flyer and now 'in retirement' from Hughes Electro Optical and Data Systems Division, now part of Raytheon Space and Airborne systems, finds time to write to the group on a variety of aviation topics including his aeromodelling heyday in the 1950s when the radio control of model aircraft at the consumer level was still in its infancy.

With no money to go to college Pete worked as an office boy for a year then went to Saint Louis University on his savings. He got a job working as a draftsman for McDonnell aircraft and joined the UASF ROTC.

Subsequently he used the GI bill to go to graduate school and by 1957 with degrees in Aero Engineering & Engineering Mechanics (and lots of graduate work in mathematics), was an Assistant Professor at St Louis University and later taught at UCLA in the Engineering Extension - where they teach graduate engineers the new technology.

Pete and his wife Kay live close to fellow group member Reg Jr. and often compare notes over a nice lunch down Redondo Beach way.

Luca Mariotti Luca Mariotti: Pisa, Italy

Luca, who served his Military National Service in a NBC (nuclear, biologic, chemical) warfare battalion, has been fascinated with aviation and in particular unmanned aviation since the late 1970s.

Luca's name first appeared in an early version of the website correcting details that Russell had written about the "Radioplane" drones long before he and the rest of the group and I had met. At that time information on the "Radioplane" story was largely unknown to Russell and the corrections were openly welcomed.

Since that time Luca has played an active part supplying photographs and information essential to the overall completeness of the story.

Luca (an optician by profession) married in 1988. He and his wife Elena have two children Chiara and Lorenzo.

Prof. John Bird Prof. John Bird: Melbourne, Australia

Russell's long time friend and Ph.D. supervisor, John returned to an active interest in small-scale aviation after his retirement from RMIT University and has been a collector and gatherer of a range of related material since the site began. Along with Russell, John is an Honorary Research Associate with Monash University's "Aerobotics" research team that develops unmanned aerial communication and navigational systems.

John and his wife Julie, also a former teacher, are both excellent photographers, a real plus with so many grandchildren around their house daily.

Dr Russell Naughton Dr Russ Naughton: also from Melbourne, Australia

Now retired (2001), Russell began writing his widely read Lawrence Hargrave aviation website in 1998, of which this section on my father, is but only one area of study.

He has integrated the texts and artifacts that I and others have preserved from my father's long career into a comprehensive study of his life which included, most notably, the embryonic days of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry in which he, alongside Reginald Denny, played such a pioneering role.
The "Hargrave" website that now includes my father's story, is archived for posterity (alongside Russell's Ph.D. Thesis "Adventures in Cybersound"), in the Australian National Library's digital collection known as the Pandora Project.

"For informative, well-researched articles -- many with illustrations and animations -- on the early history of cinema, pre-cinema technologies (the panorama, diorama, cosmorama, etc.), and early radio and television, the best of the net is Dr. Russell Naughton's 'Adventures in Cybersound' site in Australia." Russell A. Potter, Ph.D. Professor of English, Rhode Island College Providence, Rhode Island, USA.
Russell and his wife Rosalind, a librarian, sometimes even get a visit from Alistair, their recently 21yr old son when he is not out re-inventing his world

Dr Del Tucker Finally, three people I cannot leave out.

Firstly, my husband Dr Delos Tucker who worked as a machinist for my father at 'LA Pneumatic' whilst working his way through college.

Catherine and her husband Dr Rick Durbin.

Secondly, my dear sister Catherine and her husband Dr Rick Durbin who, along with Delos, helped with the editing of my words and jogged my memory about things they remembered about my father.

My heartfelt thanks go out to all of you.

Frances Jean (Righter) Tucker, July 2005

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