McDermott Library Mourns Passing of WWI Aviation Expert

McDermott Library’s History of Aviation Collection (HAC) lost an expert and longtime volunteer recently when Ken Rice died at age 87.  Researchers from all over the world sought out Rice for accurate information on the German air force during World War I. The Plano resident had been associated with the HAC since it started at UT Dallas in 1983.

Ken Rice

Ken Rice

Rice’s research focus for many years was the A.E. Ferko collection, obtained from the Ferko estate in 1997. Ferko was known internationally as an authority on every phase of World War I combat aviation, especially the German aces and outstanding fliers.

Rice was also well-versed on World War II aviation but was most interested in the older aircraft.

Paul Oelkrug, coordinator of Special Collections, said Rice was one of the first people he met when he came to the HAC in 2002.  “Ken was a great guy and easy to get to know.  He made me feel at home with the HAC volunteers and staff.  Ken had a great sense of humor and always had a big smile on his face.  I as well as the rest of the Special Collections staff and volunteers will miss him.”

Kenneth John Rice was born Aug. 4, 1925, in Chicago. He was an avid maker of airplane models during his formative years and took his first flight in a Ford Trimotor in 1929.

He initially trained as a field artillery radio operator in World War II, but his entire class was transferred to the combat infantry of the 36th Division in Europe. After the war, he attended the University of Illinois and graduated from Central Technical School in Kansas City, majoring in engineering.

He spent 31 years as a technician at station WHIO-TV, Dayton’s first TV station, then the next 20 years marketing and selling television broadcast equipment such as lenses, prisms and cameras. He went into selling radio equipment, providing everything that would be needed to up a radio station, including transmitters.

Not satisfied with building aircraft models, Rice began flying in the early 1960s in a Cessna 150 and later flew mostly Citabrias.

The A.E. Ferko Collection of WWI Aviation Materials
Red Barons photograph

Pilots from

The World War I collection that volunteer Ken Rice worked on contains, among other historic documents, rare pictures of German fighter aces.

At left: German pilots and brothers Lothar von Richthofen and Manfred von Richthofen (German Ace known as the Red Baron) next to a Fokker triplane.  Above (from left): Fighter pilots Sebastian Festner, Karl Emil Schäfer, Manfred von Richthofen, Lothar von Richthofen and Kurt Wolff.

From the Ed Ferko Collection, History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections Department, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.


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