The present Beauregard Parish Airport has a long and colorful history, which began prior to its use as an airfield. The airport property includes most of what was once the Graybow Community. In 1912 Graybow was an active community and the location of the Galloway Sawmill.

The sawmill had been built along the Santa Fe Railroad tracks with the planer mill on one side of the tracks and the big mill, commissary, and office on the other side of the tracks. This was the site of the Graybow Riot of 1912. Some have referred to the incident as the first labor riot in the U.S. It is interesting that Lake Charles American Press reported that Company K of the 1st Louisiana Infantry was sent to DeRidder in 1912 for duty during a labor riot. If this was a result of the Graybow Riot then this was the earliest known military involvement with the airport.

Two decades later the nation was experiencing the effects of the Great Depression. To counteract the unemployment caused by the depression, work projects were activated across the country. One such project was begun in 1934, 3 miles west of DeRidder under the Auspices of the Emergency Relief Authority which later became the WPA. This project in a stump littered field provided employment for about 400 men, who worked to clear what had once been a densely wooded region.

They constructed two earthen runways on 160 acres of land leased from the owner. The field was used very little. Barnstorming pilots would occasionally visit and offer rides for $2.00.

A 1937 aerial photo shows a very basic grass landing strip. The photo identifies the site as Beauregard field. There are also photos, taken the same year, of another airport which was located east Pinewood Elementary where the carnival is located during the annual fair. This was identified in the photos as the DeRidder Airport.

Interest in the military utilization of Beauregard Field increased significantly in 1939 when war began in Europe. The United States needed a training ground for American troops. In the summer of 1940 the area was used for the "Louisiana Maneuvers". Beauregard Field was used extensively. The Beauregard Parish Police Jury bought the previously leased 160 acres plus an additional 280 acres for $11,000. An additional 200 acres was later bought to make up 1 square mile.

In Feburary, 1941, Colonel Roy C. Powell, Army Engineers visited the site urging that a proposed development be filed as a National Defense Project. The Police Jury and the City of DeRidder agreed to furnish the additional 200 acres, plus sewage and water facilities, and to remove obstructions to air navigation. The cost to be $475,518.85 excluding labor. On Feburary 26, 1941, the American Press reported unanimous "approval of the airport at DeRidder for the estabishment of an observation squadron in connection with the armored division at Camp Polk, near Leesville". The "connection" to "Camp" Polk still exists. There has been a continuing working relationship between the military and civilian communities for over 50 years.

The DeRidder Army Air Base was begun on July 21, 1941, four months prior to Pearl Harbor. Additional runways were begun as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The federal government leased the 640 acre tract from the Police Jury and acquired surrounding property until the base included over 4,200 acres.

The base developed rapidly after the United States entered World War II. The year 1942 saw the completion of several runways, concrete aprons, radio-controlled tower, a huge hanger, recreation hall, post office, 60-bed hospital, theatre, and housing. Over 5,000 personnel, military and civilian were assigned to the base. In comparison the population for the City of DeRidder at that time is shown at 3,750. One project of interest was the swimming pool located near the location of the Graybow Riot. "From a stagnant waterhole hidden amoung a large group of pine trees, at the south end of the airfield, the Corps of Engineers built the 'Pearl Harbor' swimming pool, one of the largest to be found at any army 'camp'. One has to wonder if this pool might have been the site of the Galloway millpond. Here a three level diving tower, clothed in thick rope netting was used to instruct military personnel on the best methods of abandoning ship. One method was the climbing down of these nets while another required the men to jump from the tower's highest point".

"The pool was officially opened on Friday afternoon September 4th, it's dedication honoring the valiant heroes of Peral Harbor."

A newspaper was quickly established and the DeRidder Air Base news made its' first appearance on September the 15th.With Volume 1, Number 2 the Base Newspaper acquired a shorter name. From the second edition on it was known simply as: The Observer.

Corporal Bart Allen of the 317th designed a distinctive badge for the Squadron which was sent to the Adjutant General's office for approval; the AG office gave its offical approval on October 8th, 1942.

The design on the badge showed a gold quill and a gold propeller blade in saltire. Perched upon the hub of the blade was a gold pelican. A blue scroll with gold lettering above the pelican and the prop proclaimed "Servitium Non Servitudo - Service, Not Servitude".

There was also an offical base song according to the abovementioned history.

"Within a few moments the two men proceeded to the Officer's Club where Captain Ingraham heard a preview of "The Pelican and the Prop", (111.6, App.), (Exhibit 1, app.). This took place on June 26th, 1943. Captain Ingraham become so impressed, he suggested to Colonel Carroll that Lt. Platnick introduce the composition at the Saturday Night Dance at the Officer's Club to which the Colonel agreed.

On Saturday evening, of that same week, after the first performance of "The pelican and the Prop" had been enthusiastically received, Colonel Carroll announced its acceptance as the offcial song of the DeRidder Army Airbase."

The DeRidder Army Air Base was declared surplus on October 2, 1946 and transferred to War Assets Administration on April 30, 1947. The Beauregard Parish Police Jury assumed responsibility for the airport that year. On December 23, 1948 the government deeded the base to the Police Jury under the terms of the Surplus Property Act.

A requirement of the deed was that the property had to remain a public airport and all benefits of the property must be used to benefit the airport. In this case the federal government, wisely, not only gave the parish an airport but also gave a means by which the airport could provide for it's own financial self-support. Today the airport includes over 4,200 acres and is, financially, self-supporting. Normally there are no tax revenues received from the Police Jury or City of DeRidder.

Airport revenues are generated through forestry, agriculture, fuel sales, hanger rentals, and leases.
Tenants included:
FAA Automated Flight Service Station
Beauregard Country Club
Bennett Timber Company
Beauregard Parish Police Jury
Dept. of Transpertation & Development
Dept. of Agriculture & Forestry (Office and 400 acre seed orchard)
La. National Guard
Smith Farms (575 acres)
Beauregard Parish Sportmans Assn.
Beauregard Parish Library
Iron Yard
Lewis Trucking

The airport is a public General Aviation facility owned by Beauregard Parish, which has created, an airport district governed by a seven member Board of Commissioners.

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