Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Warner F. “Tex” Rankin Jr., Colonel, USAF (Retired)March 14, 1920 – March 02, 2016
Colonel Warner F. “Tex” Rankin Jr., retired USAF officer, passed away Wednesday, March 2, 2016 after a courageous battle with pneumonia.
Memorials: In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to TCU Harris College of Nursing or First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth.
Tex was born March 14, 1920, in Wichita Falls, Texas, grew up in Fort Worth, and graduated from Texas Christian University in 1940 with a degree in Geology. Tex lettered in baseball and golf and was the captain of the 1940 T.C.U. golf team.
While doing graduate work in 1941, Tex became enamored with flying and with World War II looming on the horizon, joined the Army Air Corps as a flying cadet in June 1941. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, he received his pilot’s wings and a reserve commission in January 1942.
At that time, Lt. Rankin was in a cadre which opened the Seventh Ferrying Group in Great Falls, Mont. The primary mission of the Group was to deliver aircraft to our Russian allies at Fairbanks, Alaska under America’s Lend-Lease Program. The Group also delivered new Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses from the Seattle factory to modification centers and combat organizations.
In the summer of 1943, Tex volunteered for service in the China-Burma-India Theatre of World War II. Japanese forces had occupied all of China’s eastern seaports only a month after the beginning of the war. By April 1942 they had also taken over all of Burma, shutting down all sources of petroleum and other essential war materiel to the Chinese forces fighting the Japanese. The USAF’s Air Transport Command established the giant India-China Airlift in 1942. Pilots flying transport aircraft over Japanese occupied Burma and the treacherous Himalayan Mountains (a route known as THE HUMP) kept China in the war. From July 1943 through June 1944, Tex completed two consecutive tours of duty, flying 189 missions totaling more than 600 hours. He was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Air Medals, three Battle Stars, and a Distinguished Unit Citation. He also received the Nationalist Chinese Medal of Valor, authorized personally by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Chek, leader of Nationalist China.
While in India, Tex met Lt. Polly Curry who became his wife in November 1944. As an Army flight nurse, Polly air evacuated wounded Allied soldiers from the combat zones of Burma.
After World War II, Tex was awarded a Regular Commission and in 1946 was assigned to the Air Force’s Flight Text Division, then located in Dayton, Ohio. He regarded this as the finest assignment a young pilot could aspire to. Completing both Aircraft Flight Performance School and the Aircraft Stability and Control School, he served as an Experimental Test Pilot for four years. During this period he flew some 30 models of aircraft, ranging from the first jet fighters to the very heavy bombers, from attack aircraft to helicopters. His specialty, though, was the large four-engine transports. He did much of the experimental flight test work on the last three piston engine transports procured by the USAF; the Douglas C-74 Globemaster, the Boeing C-97 Stratocruiser, and the Douglass C-124 Globemaster II.
After Tex left Flight Test Division in 1950, he entered the Harvard Business School where he majored in Investment Management and Finance, and was named a Baker Scholar for his scholastic achievements. In 1952 he received his MBA, graduating with High Distinction, which is the highest academic award given to a Harvard Business School graduate.
Following tours on the Air Staff in the Pentagon, and a three year stint in Germany, he returned to the Aeronautical Systems Division at Dayton, and was assigned as the System Program Director for the C-5A, the Air Force’s first strategic jet transport. For this work he was awarded the Legion of Merit.
Colonel Rankin’s last Air Force tour of duty was at the USAF Eastern Test Range at Patrick AFB, Florida, as the Director of Range Engineering. His organization supported NASA’s rocket launches at nearby Cape Canaveral with aircraft, telemetry, communications and radar. He was in the engineering control room when NASA put Neil Armstrong on the moon in July 1969. For this work he was awarded his second Legion of Merit.
In July 1970, Colonel Rankin retired from the USAF, and immediately went to work for USPA/IRA, now known as First Command Financial Planning Group. After six months in the field in Florida, he was transferred to the home office in Fort Worth as Director of Marketing, a post which he held for 12 years. He retired from First Command as 1989 as Senior Vice-President for Public Relations.
Tex was an active member of the First United Methodist Church since 1932, serving on the Finance Committee for many years. He was a powerful athletic and academic supporter of TCU, establishing four endowed scholarships, a Professorship for the Dean of the College of Health and Human Services, a lectureship series, and other academic gifts. He was a Founding Member of TCU’s Clark Society, and served on the Chancellor’s Council. In 2001, TCU named him Alumnus of the Year. He was also a benevolent donor to the scholarship fund established by his graduating class at the Harvard Business School.
Tex was an avid golfer and Duplicate Bridge player, having earned over 1600 Master Points and achieved the rank of Silver Life Master in the American Contract Bridge League. He was also a Paul Harris Fellow in the Westside Rotary Club.
In 2000, he met and later married his wife, Andrea, and they became ardent travelers, literally going to the four corners of the world. When he wasn’t traveling or spending time at his vacation home in Ruidoso, he continued to play golf, gin rummy and Bridge with his many friends.
Tex will be known and remembered by all who knew him for his positive attitude, his love of life, his generous and giving personality, and his amazing memory. He was an inspiration and role model whose death will leave an irreplaceable void in the life of his family and many friends.
Colonel Rankin was preceded in death by his wife, Pauline Curry Rankin; parents, Warner and Delola Dunn Rankin; stepmother, Faye Breeding Rankin; only brother, John Wallace “Bo” Rankin.
Survivors: Wife, Andrea; son, Michael Scott Rankin; son, Patrick Rankin and wife, Lorna of Pilot Point; stepchildren, Adriane Massey and husband, Gareld, and Garret Pendergrass and wife, Lynne; granddaughter, Sage; nephews, John Arthur Rankin of Austin, and Robert Bruce Rankin of Taylor, S.C.; cousins, Gina Johnson and husband, Randal of Fort Worth, Linda Mitchell of San Antonio, Bennie Lee Hudgins of Granbury, and Frances Marie Knox.