Harold Bixby

Bixby poirtrait.jpgWho knew that a Captiva Island resident was at the heart of the St. Louis group that funded Charles Lindbergh’s solo trans-Atlantic flight on May 21, 1927?  

Born in St Louis and educated at Amherst College, former balloon pilot turned banker, Harold McMillan “Bix” Bixby was one of Charles Lindbergh’s primary backers in 1927, when Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic. Bixby even had the honor of naming the single engine plane, The Spirit of St Louis, which Lindbergh would fly into immortality. 

Bixby_5_men_1949_01 copy.jpgSubsequently Mr. Bixby was hired by Pan American Airways to explore and pioneer passenger and airmail routes between the U.S. and China.  Later in his career he served as manager of Chinese National Airways in Shanghai retiring as Vice President of Pan American Airways in 1955. 

Mr. Bixby (center) in 1949 with  W. Langhorne Bond, Ki Chun, Max Polin, Ernie Allison

In retirement on Captiva Harold Bixby worked with Ding Darling on conservation issues; the two men often traveled together to Tallahassee to lobby the Florida state government to set aside land for a wildlife refuge on Sanibel.  

Harold Bixby was one of three Captiva Island residents appointed by Governor Collins in 1958 to serve as commissioner to the newly formed Captiva Erosion Prevention District.

Bixby family.JPGIn September 1960, Hurricane Donna struck SW Florida. One week later Bixby came to Captiva, assessed the situation and upon return to his Bolton Landing, NY home typed a letter addressed “Dear Captivans.”  In this letter Bixby summarized his post-hurricane findings and, in closing, wrote “…spirit gets the impossible done quickly.”  These words are reflective of Bix Bixby’s observant nature and positive outlook.

The Bixby Family in 1959

Harold Bixby died at his Captiva home on November 18, 1965.

Ben Barrett's book copy.jpg

In 2019 his grandson author Benjamin C. Barrett released a book The Spirit behind the Spirit of St. Louis recounting Harold Bixby’s contribution to commercial aviation, starting with financing Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 transatlantic solo flight and continuing as a Pan American Airways executive.

On Tuesday, February 13, 2024, the Captiva Island Historical Society hosted an event on Captiva where he discusses highlights of his book on his grandfather’s rich and varied career in aviation, entrepreneurship, conservation, and public relations. 

Bridging the Past and the Present