The annual George W. Jalonick III and Dorothy Cockrell Jalonick Memorial Lecture Series welcomed a standing room only audience on July 14 to hear the 2012 speaker discuss the program of the mysterious U.S. spy plane called the SR-71 Blackbird. Col. (Ret.) Richard H. Graham detailed his long career with the world's fastest and highest flying airplane that was retired in 1990. Graham also signed copies of his three books about the Blackbird that were made available by the UT Dallas Bookstore.
Feedback from the audience included praise for the lecture being one of the top presentations of the year on the UT Dallas campus.
The lecture was the 14th in the series that began in 1997 and is organized by the History of Aviation Collection based in McDermott Library's Special Collections department. The lecture series was established to inform and enlighten the public about the history of flight by bringing aviation notables to Dallas. The series was endowed in the memory of George W. Jalonick III and Dorothy Cockrell Jalonick by the late George W. Jalonick IV and friends of the Jalonick family.
Col. Graham started flying as a teenager, soloing out at age 17. He entered the Air Force in 1964 and flew 210 combat missions in Vietnam flying the F-4 Phantom. He then flew the SR-71 Blackbird for seven years on operational reconnaissance missions. He was Squadron Commander of the SR-71 unit in 1980 and eventually became the Wing Commander at Beale AFB, Calif., where he flew the SR-71, U-2, KC-135, and T-38 aircraft. His awards and decorations include four Distinguished Flying Crosses and 19 Air Medals. After 25 years in the Air Force, Col. Graham flew 13 years for American Airlines.
He now keeps busy as an author, speaker, aviation consultant, flight instructor and Civil Air Patrol pilot. He was the 1999 recipient of the University of Nebraska’s William F. Shea Award for distinguished contribution to aviation. In 2005 he received the Kelly Johnson Award for lifetime achievements to the Blackbird program.
From 1967 to 1990, the SR-71 served seven U.S. Presidents, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon and other government agencies. It provided them with the necessary intelligence to make crucial political and military decisions during the Cold War era.
Col. (Ret.) Richard Graham in front of a large image of the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane.
Sally Hudnall, left, sister of the late George Jalonick IV, Col. Graham, and Mary Jalonick wife of George Jalonick IV. The Jalonick family continues to sponsor the long-running series dedicated to bringing aviation notables to UT Dallas.