Royal Leonard (1905-1962) flew in and out of aviation history - just on the edge of fame. "If Royal's story were told in a novel," said long-time China pilot and author Felix Smith, "nobody would believe it all could have happened to one man."
Royal learned his craft at the West Point of the Air in San Antonio, Texas. As a Western Air Express night mail pilot, he pioneered blind flying along the treacherous Rocky Mountains. As a TWA pilot, he introduced celestial navigation. An early Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) officer, he fought for mail plane safety at the cost of his job.
Jackie Cochran selected Royal as a copilot for the MacRobertson Race of the Century between England and Australia. He also competed in the Bendix Death Race in a Gee Bee Widow Maker.
Prior to World War II, Royal worked for the Chinese warlord known as the Young Marshal who kidnapped Nationalist dictator Chiang Kai-shek and changed the course of Chinese history. Royal provided Communist political commissar Chou En-lai his first plane ride and later served as Chiang Kai-shek's personal pilot.
During World War II, Royal played unique roles. Claire Chennault chose him to command a projected Flying Tigers Bomber Group. Royal briefed Colonel Jimmy Doolittle on Chinese landing fields for the Tokyo Raid, and Royal survived flying the "Skyway to Hell" over the Hump for China National Aviation Corporation.
No wonder, after a perilous flight, war correspondent Martha Gellhorn described Royal as her "hero."
Bob Davies played a significant role in the development of modern basketball. He introduced the behind-the-back-dribble, developed the penetration and transition styles of play, and created several innovative passes.
Davies was an All-American at Seton Hall College. Sports Illustrated named him one of the eight most influential players in the first century of college basketball.
As a World War II naval officer, Davies served on a sub chaser in the invasion of southern France and in the South Pacific.
Davies was one of the first three NBA superstars. The NBA selected him as one of the ten best players in its first quarter century. As a Rochester Royal (later to become the Cincinnati Royals, then the Kansas City Kings and now the Sacramento Kings), he played on one of only four teams in NBA history to win the playoff championship or finish or tie for first in their division or conference for five consecutive seasons.
Davies was a rarity in American sports - a sports hero as well as a genuine role model. He was the prototype for the fictional sports hero-role model in 23 Chip Hilton juvenile books. He roomed with a Rochester Royal African-American teammate on the road BEFORE Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.
This biography is rich in photos, archival materials and personal interviews.