Emory Conrad Malick 1881-1958
2011 Juneteenth celebration, Woodbury, NJ

About Mary Groce

Mary Groce is a writer, speaker, illustrator, and the 2019 Verville Fellow at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC.

In 2004, Mary discovered records and photographs saved by her late aunt, indicating that her grandmother’s birth brother, Emory Conrad Malick (1881-1958), was a pioneer pilot and an African American (Mary’s grandmother, Annie, who looked white, had been adopted by a white couple when she was two years old, back in 1888). Mary has since been researching Emory’s story, presenting lectures about him, and writing his biography.

Emory Conrad Malick would have been the first licensed African American aviator, earning his F.A.I. license, #105, on March 20, 1912, while attending the Curtiss School of Aviation on North Island, San Diego, California. Emory was also the first pilot to fly a powered plane over central Pennsylvania. His first recorded flight was on July 24, 1911, near Shamokin, Northumberland County, where he made headlines again in 1912, and again over Snyder County in 1914, “to the wonderment of all!” In fact, he flew that biplane (which he constructed himself, improving upon the original design), a Curtiss “pusher,” over the town of Selinsgrove, where Mary grew up, and where her father, at age three, had moved with his family earlier in 1914. Emory, who grew up in nearby Sunbury, also flew his homemade gliders across the Susquehanna River to his job as a farmhand on Cottie Weiser’s farm.

By 1910, Emory was living in the Philadelphia area, where he worked as a pilot, barnstormer, aerial photographer, carpenter, and master tile-layer. During his years in Philadelphia, Emory’s records state that he began a flying business, Flying Dutchman Air Service, which, according to Buehl family records, was also owned by Ernie Buehl, who had been a pilot/airplane mechanic for his native Germany during World War I. Two crashes in 1928 (both of which were possibly caused by sabotage—unfortunately, not an uncommon weapon used against black and women pilots during that era) abruptly ended Mr. Malick’s flying career.

A few years later, Ernie Buehl proved to be the only pilot instructor who would teach black pilots, including Major Bertram A. Levy, who then became an original Tuskegee Airman (the black pilots who flew heroically for the U.S. during World War II), and “Chief” Charles Alfred Anderson, who went on to become Chief Flight Instructor for the Tuskegee Airmen. In fact, Chief Anderson was the pilot who flew First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, proving to her—and therefore to her husband F.D.R.—that black pilots could, in fact, fly airplanes—and fly them very well indeed!

Mary is honored to be sharing the history of her great uncle, finally celebrating the accomplishments of Emory Conrad Malick, the Grandfather of Black Aviation.

Mary Groce



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