Thank You For Visiting Sedona Legend-
The Jack And Helen Frye Story!
Sedona's Celebrity Love Story!
This is the official, not to mention only, web portal in the world
dedicated exclusively to the legacy of Jack and Helen Frye!
The Frye Legacy-
a Lifetime of Accomplishment!
By Randall Reynolds
The Sedona Legend Web Site is a copyrighted historical photo enhanced narrative presented for
educational and entertainment purposes. Some materials may be displayed in regard to the
United States Fair Use Act. This web portal is totally non-profit and generates no income nor
does it seek or has it ever accepted a single donation. It is an independent venture.
Sedona Legend was envisioned and created to provide Red Rock State Park visitors a
comprehensive historic overview for Jack and Helen Frye and their Deer-Lick and Smoke Trail
Ranches. This effort is now officially cited by R.R.S.P. as an indepth historical venue
representing Jack and Helen Frye.
Sedona Legend is encouraged by the many friends of Jack and Helen Frye. A gracious thank you
to the Frye and Varner families for invaluable support and Red Rock State Park staff and
volunteers for their enthusiasm.
Sedona Legend Helen Frye a.k.a. the Jack and Helen Frye Story
A Decade of Research and Presentation- Created By Randall D. Reynolds
Copyright © 2003 All Rights Reserved
The day was Tuesday, February 3rd, 1959, Jack was staying at the Lodge on the Desert at 306
North Alvernon Way, in Tucson Arizona. Because Jack and his then wife Nevada, were
separated, he had been staying there for about 8 months, while in town on business promoting a
new Tucson airplane factory. Mrs. Frye, the famous showgirl actress Nevada Smith was living in
Las Vegas. This was not news to anyone, as within a year of their wedding, newspapers in New
York City gave the couple’s marriage less than a year; however, they managed to make it a
rocky 9 years with frequent separations, and a child for a bargaining chip.
I visited the Lodge on the Desert in 2008, which incidentally, now, is no longer on the edge of
the city but enveloped by it. I wanted to see Jack’s room and interview the staff. I figured they
wouldn't know "who" Jack Frye was, but I wrong. Image my surprise when they not only knew
who he was but stated that they felt his ghost haunted the historic property! What? I was
flabbergasted! For one, I couldn’t imagine why Jack would haunt a hotel he only stayed at for a
short time, as at the time, it was just a convenient and comfortable place for him to reside. I
asked the manager what on earth was the basis for the ghost story? She reached in her desk
and showed me a photograph of a recent wedding event, at which the reception, was held in the
lodge’s dining room. It seems that after the wedding the blissful couple excitedly looked over
their photos only to find one which was marred by swirls of what looked like “ectoplasm”? After
scrutinizing the photo myself and asking permission to scan it I could see there was apparently
some basis for it being designated a “ghost” picture. But “what” or “who” was responsible for
the photo’s anomaly?
I captured numerous images of the same room with dining tables, backdrops, etc. Later, after
studying the "ghost image" I can honestly say there does appear to be the shadow of a man who
looks suspiciously like a well-circulated newspaper image of Frye which ran with an article
about him in the Tucson Citizen, shortly before he died and again after his death. But wait!
After studying the dining room and the subsequent photos, the angle of the shot, and the
position of the urns behind the plate glass backdrop, I am more inclined to say the purported
"ghost figure" element to the image diminishes under close scrutiny. Likely what is seen is a
reflection of light and shadow of the large urns with plants behind the plate glass window in the
background. The ectoplasm-like swirls I can’t explain. But appearing over the image they do.
I would like more than anyone to think that the image might actually be a photo of the ghost of
Jack Frye, but I prefer to take a responsible stance of objectivity in my work. My question is
who decided it was Frye, and why? Is he the only celebrity who has experienced tragedy
associated with the lodge? The staff graciously showed me room number “16” where Jack
resided. This was verified by what the management stated was a “guest register”; however,
upon subsequent scrutiny and discussion with the previous owner of the lodge, it was proven to
be merely a "mail delivery log". Nevertheless Jack’s name was notated for deliveries to room
Later, I was to find out there is no historic guest registry log for The Lodge on the Desert and
there never was. The original owners kept the names of the guests in a card file which was later
discarded by subsequent owners. I know something about hotels myself, having worked at two
of the finest in the state, L'Auberge and Enchantment, at Sedona. Interestingly, L'Auberge was
owned at the time I was employed there by several partners, one of which was Dan Donahoe.
The same Donahoe currently owns the Lodge on the Desert property. Perhaps this entrepreneur
envisions another L'Auberge-like property in Tucson? The Sedona property was at one time one
of the finest French Country Inns in the nation, patrons would fly-in from all over, just to dine
Back to Number 16. The room has long since been remodeled, yet, in Jack’s time, it was
actually a 2-room suite (16 and 17) with kitchenette. Jack initially signed a 3-month lease with
the previous owner, contingent on air-conditioning being installed in the room, a luxury he
desired for his toddler daughter, Nevajac. Jack Frye resided in these rooms off and on for about
6 months. Believe it or not, air conditioning was not common in 1958 Arizona or Tucson.
I took many photos, hoping for a “ghost” image of my own, but with the exception of one small
plasma-like orb, nothing unusual was seen. The staff encouraged me to contact Mr. Schuy
(Schuyler) Lininger, the previous owner of the Lodge, since 1947, which by the way, previously,
was owned by his parents Mr. and Mrs. Homer B. Lininger. The lodge was opened in 1936 by this
couple who hailed from Evanston Illinois. Before this the property had been a private residence.
The Liningers operated it in the winters, returning home to the more temperate climate of
Chicago for the hot Arizona summers.
Yes, Mr. Lininger remembered the famous Jack Frye. He spoke very highly of him and his then
(last wife) Nevada. He remembered her clearly, as being very nice, and very beautiful, “a tall
redhead”, as he recalled. One is inclined to remember her that way, or as her daughter Nevajac
does, later in life after Jack’s death, as a stunning “dish” with coiffed hair, dressed to
perfection, driving a big Cadillac convertible, looking every bit the New York City celebrity she
truly was. In spite of newspaper spin at the time of Jack’s death, the couple was separated by
'59. Jack contacted his father right before he died, and his father agreed to take Jack’s young
daughter, during what Jack felt was going to be a rather messy divorce. Jack had arranged for
TWA's Carter Burgess to be Nevajac Frye's guardian, should he suddenly die.
Jack kept a plane at the Tucson airport, at that time, his company transport (a Helio Courier
H-391B), and one day offered to take Lininger and his number 3 son for a 15-20 minute flight
over Tucson. An event, warmly related by Lininger, even after all these years! This was typical
for Jack who was always offering to take friends and associates for flights. From the time of a
teenager Frye was more comfortable in a plane, than on the ground. Yet, a little known fact,
Jack Frye was afraid of heights (but not flying). Imagine that!
Then, there was the story of the “buried money”. I started to feel like I was being led down the
garden path, as this visit to Lodge, started to take on an surreal “Al Capone's Vault” -like
association. The manager mentioned to me that they hoped to someday find the suitcase full of
cash that Mr. Frye had buried on the property, going further, to jokingly state, that the lost
cash would come in handy for some much needed renovations! Knowing Jack Frye pretty well, I
was again bowled over! She proceeded to tell me, that when Jack was staying at the Lodge, there
was a maid working there at the time who came into his room and spied, on the bed, a suitcase,
which was opened, and stuffed full of cash. The staff didn’t seem to be able to offer any
explanation as to “why” there was a suitcase full of money in his room? My impression was the
next time the maid went into the room, the money was mysteriously gone! For whatever reason,
maybe Frye was known to have not left the Lodge for a time after the incident, it was thought
that the money was not banked, but rather buried on property, as it was never seen again.
Interesting conclusion, eh?
Jack’s daughter Nevajac was equally mystified (actually more flabbergasted) when I related this
fantastic tale. She does remember, as a little girl, visiting her father at the Lodge and staying in
his “suite”. Of course, as a Jack Frye historian, I immediately started wondering, “what, why,
The maid seems to be unavailable, either dead, or imaginary, so I must draw my own
conclusions. It was well publicized before Jack died that he was raising money in Tucson for a
new airplane factory project (see Page 1957). He had raised 350 thousand dollars which was
promptly returned to the investors after his death. So knowing that stories usually start with an
actual event, I wondered, is the event remembered the way it actually occurred? My feeling is
that the maid likely did see some money in Frye’s suite. This cash was very likely some of the
funds which were raised in Tucson from local business associates, perhaps, even from a previous
late night banquet. For whatever reason, Jack had not yet deposited the money, and some of it,
at least, possibly, was in the form of cash. The maid enters the suite and sees something she
shouldn’t have. Jack trusted the staff, so likely he was not alarmed. The money was then
quickly secured by Frye. However, somewhere along the way, someone, assumes the money was
buried on the property? That one I can’t explain…. but it does make quite a tale!
Fact is, that at Jack’s death, he left perhaps a million dollars in lost assets, which took years
and many high-powered attorneys to recover. Jack was a multi-millionaire, a fact often stated in
the newspapers. However, I have never, and would not be inclined to ever think, that he would
bury a suitcase full of money, Period. Certainly, not on property he didn't even own. He owned
property all over the country, at the time. Interestingly, though, herein lies an interesting
hypothesis. Perhaps, if a person did believe the ghost and buried cash story, then this would be
the reason that Jack is "allegedly" haunting the property? Keep in mind, that if the "alleged"
money is ever discovered, I'm sure Jack would be very happy if it could be offered to his
daughter who was robbed of his ample inheritance, perhaps, then the alleged haunting would
stop and he would be at peace? Of course, I am sure Jack IS at peace and not haunting anything.
The Lodge on the Desert was in a state of construction when I was there so any ghost hunting
was for naught. It seems the ghosts, as well as the patrons, were absent. As well, the previous
owner who was associated with the property from its inception said he had never heard of any
such Frye tales and was quite surprised and totally confused as to how they could have started.
Perhaps a little publicity by someone somewhere down the line? Back to the Jack's last day.
The Final Day- Tucson Arizona
Back Story- February 3, 1959
Of Ghosts, Suitcase Full of Cash
and a Secret Meeting with Howard Hughes
Only a consummate pilot could understand the significance of this event, one which gives me
pause. Seen above in a photo portrait hanging in a common area of the Tucson Airport, Bob
Schmidt described Jack Frye to the press after the accident, "in my book he was one of the top
10 aviation men in the country. As a man they don't make them any better."
The other unusual event which supposedly took place in the last hours of Jack’s life is that he
met with Howard Hughes. This, thought to be the last person Jack was with before his tragic
accident, and subsequent death. But can this proved? This tale seems impossible to document.
We have 2 witnesses, one deceased, one still alive. In interviews with the latter, I have pieced
together the following story-
That evening, a physician named Charles H. Carpenter, of Glendale, California, (now deceased)
received a phone call from Jack Frye at Tucson, Arizona. The call came to the doctor’s home.
This physician was a friend and physician at times to both Jack and Helen Frye from the mid-
1940’s. He treated Jack in 1946 during a time when Jack was exhausted mentally and physically
during the infamous TWA pilot's strike (according to Helen Frye). For additional information
see the detailed and extensive medical journal "Fountain of Youth" which was written by
Carpenter's son (Charles) also a physician detailing his father's career.
To paraphrase, the mysterious call went like this- Jack stated he was with Howard Hughes at
the Hughes facility in Tucson. He went on to relate that when he met Howard that evening he
told Howard "you are really looking rough!" He then encouraged Howard to see Dr. Carpenter
for help. Jack had explained to Hughes that Carpenter was pioneering a revolutionary new
treatment program in which Jack himself had participated and believed in. After some coaxing
from his old friend Howard agreed to make an appointment with Carpenter later that evening.
This was the sole purpose of the phone call from Tucson, for Jack to notify Dr. Carpenter that
Howard would call later that evening for a consultation as soon as he (Frye) left the facility. The
doctor's son, Charles, was in the room when the call came through and told me his father was
very excited about the prospect of treating Hughes as he was hoping for an association, an in,
with the Hughes Medical Institute. The Carpenters waited anxiously in Glendale for
Howard's promised call but it never came.
The next time the phone rang later in the evening it was not Hughes but Helen Frye from
Sedona relating that Jack had died in a tragic accident. Howard, Jack, and Helen, were all
intimate friends. Interestingly, this is likely the last phone call Jack made before he died.
However, he was thought to have been in touch with Helen Frye at some point earlier that day.
Later, Helen told Carpenter’s son over lunch in Los Angeles that she and Jack were in the
process of planning a re-marriage when he unexpectedly died. This same story has been related
to me by other Frye intimates.
I went out to the former Hughes facility (H.M.S.C.) where Jack and Howard were thought to
have met that fateful evening only to find access is severely limited. I found security fences
everywhere, no trespassing signs, guards and signage “no cameras allowed”.
Howard launched the facility in 1951 but within a year he sold 51 percent of the property to the
United States Government. A crafty move for Hughes who made most his later money off
United States Defense Contracts, a little known fact. A move, incidentally, which enraged
Tucson city government officials because of the loss of tax revenues. Tucson bent over
backwards helping Hughes initiate the venture and invested heavily with limited funds in
improvements for the remote location. From that point on Hughes developed the Falcon Missile
and other defense products at this facility. Since 1997, Ratheon Missile Systems Company has
operated the section of the facility that is not being controlled by the United States Air Force.
This was the supposed location of the secret Frye meeting, a clandestine rendezvous between
two powerful men, the richest man in the world and the former president architect of
Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc. (TWA), also, former CEO of Aniline Film Corporation,
GAF ANSCO, (Kodak’s only world rival) and lastly president of the Frye Corporation. Frye was
as successful and well-connected as Hughes was rich.
Howard was always meeting people in dark hangars or empty office buildings. Jack knew all too
well Howard’s idiosyncrasies, from the late twenties, when Jack was a stunt flier in the Hughes
movie Hell's Angels. It seems, though, the meeting wasn’t set up to discuss Howard’s poor,
drug induced health. Jack told Carpenter that Howard had agreed to come online with a
broached airplane project. This would be Tucson's first aircraft manufacturing facility at that
time and a big boon for the city. The business proposition was two-fold, Jack was launching the
‘oft delayed Frye Safari Aircraft manufacturing facility, and as well, negotiating the move of
the Helio aircraft operation from Pittsburg, Kansas to Tucson. We can be assured that a deal
was made that entailed one or both of these two projects to move forward. Jack and Howard
would not have met, if, it wasn’t for business, as this was always the foundation of their
So was Howard really in Tucson on February 3, 1959? This can likely never be proven. Hell,
even Howard’s closest associates often knew not whether Howard was in the next room or in
another state. However, one fact seems certain, a phone call was made from the Hughes facility
to Glendale, California that evening at about 5:00 P.M. The call was likely from a "Hughes
private line" and did not go through the compound’s switchboard. This call was made in the
presence of Howard Hughes by Jack Frye. After the clandestine meeting, Jack left the facility
and walked out to his car, there is little doubt he must have felt pretty contented. He and
Howard had agreed to be business partners again. He lit a cigar and pulled his big new '59
Fairlane 500 rental car out on to the Hughes Access Road and started driving the route back
toward town. Little did he know he would never reach his destination of the Lodge on the
Desert, nor would he live out the rest of his still young life.
Here was a man: one of the all time greatest legends of aviation history, who flew some of the
riskiest flights, and spent more hours in planes than most people spend in cars, yet he died on a
lonely sand swept road in a car, not a plane, at the hands of a drunken careless driver on top of
that. Fate deals us all that final card in the most unpredictable way.
On his journey back to his hotel, Jack, for some reason ended up driving north on Palo Verde
Boulevard. Tracing his steps after supposedly leaving Hughes, at the now Ratheon Facility, is
not so easy. It is not clear to me why he was on Palo Verde if he was leaving the Hughes
facility? The Hughes Access Road exits onto Alvernon Way, which is the same street as Frye’s
hotel. The entrance to the facility now is at Hughes Access Road and also off South 6th Street
(Nogales Highway) exiting at Herman’s Road. Instead of taking the direct route back to his
hotel he cut over to the west and then proceeded north when he really needed to stay east. But
roads have changed out there and in 1959 this area was scrub wasteland. Newspapers stories
reporting Frye's death made a specific point in notating the accident was near the Hughes
Access Road and of Frye’s association with Howard Hughes. But no mention was made of the
secret meeting with Hughes. This seems a rather uncanny coincidence to me and may prove it
was thought Frye was with Hughes that night but just not reported. For orientation, the area in
question is in South Tucson, near Davis-Monthan A.F.B., Pima Air Museum, Hughes Access
Rd., Hughes Aircraft Facility, and Tucson International Airport, an area I am very familiar with.
Soon Jack came upon the intersection of Ajo Road (Highway) and Palo Verde Boulevard. The
driver of a speeding station wagon was approaching from the west at a high rate of speed
(traveling east) toward Frye’s sedan as it approached. Even though the station wagon
approached a stop sign warning, and then "STOP", the car did not slow but raced past the
marker and proceeded to impact the side of Jack's car toward the left rear, at the last second
the station wagon attempted a swerve to the right. The violent collision locked the vehicles
together in a spin which resulted in the station wagon rolling 40 feet down the road while Jack's
car proceeded to roll out of control down the road for 178 feet, 40 feet of this was off Palo Verde
out into the desert. Jack was no longer in the car though, as he was ejected and thrown 40 feet
(initial reports stated 30 feet). The 43-year-old female driver of the vehicle which impacted Jack
Frye never even applied her brakes and received only minor injuries, the accident scene showed
no skid marks from either vehicle. The station wagon was thought to have been traveling at a
speed of approximately 50 m.p.h. and the time of impact was 6:49 p.m. The make of the station
wagon is unknown but a photo of Frye’s vehicle has been located in a newspaper and identified
as a 1959 Ford Fairlane 500 4dr sedan. The car was later described as the "Death Car" by
newspapers, this because of the $252,000 wrongful-death lawsuit filed against the careless (and
said to be drunk driver) of the station wagon by Jack’s then wife ex-showgirl Nevada Smith
The intersection of Ajo Way and Palo Verde Road is now so expansive and urbanized it is hard
to imagine what it looked like in 1959. But this lonely intersection is where Jack Frye found
himself fighting for his life lying in the desert critically injured after being broadsided by a
speeding mass of steel. The Pima County Sheriff's Department likely arrived in a '58 Ford
Fairlane Interceptor (within 3-minutes). (This, a well-remembered cruiser that was kept at the
nearby sub-station at that time.) Thankfully, the entire accident was witnessed by the driver of
a vehicle which was traveling south on Palo Verde and had just turned west at the intersection
on Ajo Highway, right before, Jack entered the intersection (after him). Originally, it was
reported that the witness was traveling north (not south) but this was corrected by the time the
trial commenced. The driver of this vehicle, witness, Howard Blackmore, later stated, "as I
made my turn, I saw a station wagon coming along very fast and I thought it wouldn't be able to
stop," he said, "I slowed down and looked back and saw the station wagon hit the other car."
Subsequently, Blackmore, chillingly, saw the entire accident. The intersection was dark and
there was no moon that night. This still dangerous intersection was at one time just a country
road with 2 stop signs for Ajo Highway which intersected from the west and the east. At that
time it was known as Ajo Highway and also East Ajo Road.
Jack’s sister Sunny once told me that after her brother’s funeral she was told that a friend of
Jack's was with him at the scene or the hospital comforting him that night, a mystery that has
never been solved. One wouldn't think it was the reclusive often unrecognizable Hughes, as
likely, he wouldn't have known immediately of his friends death, or did he? When Hughes
crashed his plane in Beverly Hills 1946, Frye immediately flew out to the Los Angeles (likely in
his Lodestar) from ABQ, and for 24-hours, sat outside of critically injured Hughes’ Good
Samaritan Hospital room. Later Hughes did send a condolence card stating Frye had been one
of his best friends. More likely this mystery person was perhaps Bob Schmidt (TAA).
An ambulance was dispatched to the scene, sirens wailing into the crisp February night. Jack
Frye was eventually transported to St. Mary's Hospital some 20 minutes to the northwest. Heart
wrenching as it is, witnesses were said to have heard Frye plea, "please help me!" Over the
next hour, frantic doctors and nurses tried desperately to save Jack who had multiple fractures,
head, and internal injuries. However, his injuries were just too severe and his life slowly ebbed
away. Finally, a sheet was pulled over him and everyone stepped solemnly away. The final card
was dealt. A door opened that night between our physical world and the other side. William
John 'Jack' Frye died at 8:35 p.m. God called this great man back home, a light was
extinguished in our world and simultaneously another light was brilliantly illuminated in
heaven. Jack had come home and his work launching the future of aviation on earth was over.
The tragedy is this- Jack Frye died all alone in a remote hospital surrounded by strangers, far
away from Sedona Arizona, a community he considered home. Not a fitting end for a man who
was so well-known, beloved, and admired by thousands of people. The ironic thing is that one of
Jack's biggest accomplishments in his career was making air transportation the safest possible
for the traveling public by implementing numerous airplane safety features, still in use, even
today. He was instrumental in the development of the Douglas Commercial Airliners, Boeing
Stratoliner, and Lockheed Constellation. When asked about a new plane he was promoting in
the late 1950's, the Helio Courier, he was quoted in the press as saying "this is the safest plane
in the world, I am going to fly one into a brick wall someday to prove it." On the other hand,
automobiles in the late 1950's were rolling death traps!
The above story is part of the 'copyrighted' book project "Jack & Helen Frye Story" and
appears on this website as a preview. I do not take a claim of Frye meeting with Hughes lightly
and have tried diligently to verify the meeting to no avail. The only other person who was with
Jack that night, a couple hours before he died, was Bob Schmidt. The Schmidt meeting and the
Hughes meeting almost overlapped in time frames. Since Bob and Jack discussed Helio business
it is very possible Bob knew Jack was meeting with Hughes later. But interviewing Bob is not
possible because he is dead and his family's where-a-bouts are unknown. The other person who
may have known where Jack was that night was Helen Frye but she too has passed away.
In a newspaper article written
about Frye’s accident (Robert) R.
W. F. Schmidt (now deceased) was
interviewed. (Bob) was at that
time head of T. A. A. (Tucson
Airport Authority) and the Tucson
Airport Manager. Schmidt, who
was a good friend of Frye's,
related that a few hours before
Frye's death, Jack flew the Helio
around Tucson and discussed the
future of the Helio firm with him
(Bob). It is vague but it appears
Bob meant they discussed this
business in the air. Either way,
one thing is evident, Jack, a man
who loved flying more than life
itself, took his plane up 1 last
time just 2 hours before he died.
Please note- The driver of the car that hit Jack Frye was charged with involuntary
manslaughter. According to Jack’s sister Sunny and others involved at the time, the 43 yr. old
driver was drunk. Why this was not pursued legally, likely had to do with the inconclusive (at
the time primitive) alcohol blood tests. It is possible the driver (to sober up) drank an excessive
amount of coffee in the 4 hours it took the police to order a blood test, thus diluting her blood
alcohol level. Testimony from a subpoenaed witness who was with her at the bar right before the
accident is quite compelling. (The statement was that she had consumed 4 glasses of beer in a
South Park bar after work with friends and was still in the bar when they all left at 6:15 p.m.)
She hit Frye at 6:49 p.m. There was no evidence Frye had been drinking. It is my opinion the
prosecutors knew she was likely too drunk to drive, but didn't have the evidence (botched) so
they pursued the other charges. Also, telling, is the fact that they stated in court that she didn’t
realize the full import of the matter. This is typical of a drunk driver who is so dazed at the
accident scene that they never fully comprehend what they have done. A settled 252-thousand-
dollar lawsuit (quite excessive for the time) hints of extenuating circumstances, as well.
Unfortunately, witnesses are dead, to include drivers, so it is impossible to determine all the
circumstances of this tragedy. There was an inquest and trial with two convictions. On May 27,
1959 the female driver was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. On June 5, 1959 she was
sentenced. (I have left the name of the driver out of this article who is recently deceased.)
St. Mary's Hospital, as seen in January of 2009.
Although the hospital is greatly expanded today,
the main core is very similar to what it looked
like in 1959. St Mary's is the oldest continuously
operating hospital in Arizona, and Tucson’s
busiest. Within this old building, is the
emergency room where Jack Frye left our world
for the other side. Frye remains today one of the
most famous people to have ever died at historic
St. Mary's Hospital in Tucson.
A Door Opens
Jack Frye's Last Flight-
Departure and Arrival- Tucson (TUS)
Little known information about Jack Frye and Carter L. Burgess (one time head of TWA):
Carter and Frye were close business associates when Burgess was appointed Frye’s assistant in
the late 1940’s at TWA. So close were they in fact that Jack Frye appointed Carter as trustee
and guardian for his daughter, Nevajac Frye, should anything ever happen to him (Frye).
Shockingly this indeed did happen on February 3, 1959 when the 54-year old Frye was killed
after a drunk driver totaled his automobile at Tucson Arizona. At the time Jack Frye was
initiating a divorce with his then wife, Nevada Frye. Why then did Mr. Burgess not assume
control of Jack’s daughter’s trust as agreed between he and Jack Frye? Because Jack Frye’s
wife, Nevada Frye undid every manner of Jack’s wishes at his death and assumed control not
only of his estate but as well his daughter’s care and inheritance. What happened was exactly
what Jack Frye had tried to prevent, his daughter’s inheritance totally disappeared and his wife
who lived in luxury for the next 20 years left nothing for his daughter, leaving her (his
daughter) to live out her life in near poverty. This mismanagement of his estate would have
devastated Frye had he known.
Back to TWA. When Howard Hughes (or should we say Noah Dietrich) succeeded in forcing
Jack Frye out of TWA in 1947, Carter Burgess left as well, Burgess followed Frye to General
Aniline (GAF) where he again assumed the position as Jack Frye’s assistant. Burgess stayed
with GAF until 1953. Many men loyal to Frye left TWA in 1947 (to include Jack Frye’s longtime
executive secretary Jean Phillips) who again assumed the same position at ANSCO GAF.
By January 28, 1957 after failing to convince Jack Frye to re-assume control over TWA which
was at that time languishing, Howard Hughes managed to snare Carter Burgess into the
proverbial “hot seat” instead. However, by January 1, 1958, Burgess was fed up and after much
grief resigned. Just another casualty of Hughes' revolving door on TWA's presidential office.
The reason? The same as everyone else who had the misfortune of working with Hughes in
latter years. Hughes was always AWOL and unavailable for crucial decisions. Specifically,
Carter did not even have the pleasure (or not so pleasurable) meeting with Hughes for months
at a time (perhaps never- the whole time he was president). That makes it pretty hard to run
the then 4th largest airline in the world when Hughes, as the largest stockholder, held an iron
grip over the finances of TWA yet held no official board or officer position with the company.
Howard Hughes was eventually forced out of TWA by 1966 in a move I would categorize as
“turn about is fair play” as there was certainly nothing fair about the way Frye was treated in
1947 at the end of his glorious 17-year tenure with TWA! Noah Dietrich, the man who tried to
destroy Frye's career? He eventually too was locked out of the Hughes Corporation by Howard
Hughes himself. Dietrich never had the background nor moral right to meddle in Frye TWA
business. Let's not forget it was Jack Frye who offered Hughes a partnership in TWA (1939).
TWA was known in the aviation industry at the time as "the house that Jack built".
It seems apropos to add the following editorial
and epitaph for Jack Frye below. When I was
researching background for this section of
Sedona Legend in Tucson I also met with
aviation historian, Bob Serling. I lived in
Tucson for many years and know all the areas
Jack Frye frequented. I was quite surprised
when I met Bob to find that his office was in
the Catalina Foothills (where I myself had
lived at one time). He actually 'resided' with
his wife at yet another location though. Robert
faithfully reported to his condo-office each day
to write from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and then
returned home again each evening. I thought
this showed remarkable dedication for a man
who was in his 90’s! Unfortunately, Robert
Serling soon after passed away and the world at
that moment lost one of its best aviation
historians, just as in 1975 when Bob’s brother,
Rod Serling (a stellar sci-fi writer) died. In the
section below we can read Robert Serling's
impressions of the aviator Jack Frye.
The Aftermath of a Stellar Career and Legacy
Epitaph by Aviation Historian Robert Serling
Three years ago I had the great honor of meeting Robert Serling at Tucson Arizona (now passed
away) who was (is) the most renowned (perhaps the most qualified) airline historian ever. Bob
has always been especially fond of Jack Frye in my dealings with him and as well in his visits
with Jack’s daughter Nevajac Frye. In regard to my work on Jack Frye, Bob gave me his own
“future project” notes which addressed Frye, stating to me, that I could use the information in
any way I desired as he doubted at his age he would be able to finish many future projects. The
pages addressing Frye are current (2008) as opposed to his writings about Frye in his 1983 book
“Howard Hughes’ Airline; an Informal History of TWA”. Bob conveyed the following sentiments
in his notes as reprinted below and in person he basically stated similar sentiments to me
personally about Frye, and I quote:
“Jack Frye of TWA: “He may very well have been the most underrated and unappreciated
airline president of them all. He was a pilot himself, smart and as likeable as he was capable,
but was also saddled with the fact that he was overshadowed and subservient to TWA’s majority
stockholder, who controlled TWA and happened to be Howard Hughes.”
“Frye was a true visionary, far more so than Hughes who was not as farsighted as the film “The
Aviator” portrayed him. (Bob was especially adamant about this film being grossly inaccurate
historically and maligning Frye's accomplishments and reputation). It was Frye, not Hughes who
actually ran TWA from an operational standpoint and who truly belongs in the ranks of civil
aviation’s most significant pioneer contributors. For example, he was the airline chief who
convinced Donald Douglas to design and build an airliner that could out-perform Boeing’s new
247. The eventual result was the DC-2 which begot the DC-3.”
“Hughes had no cause to quarrel with Frye, but Jack had the misfortune to run afoul of Noah
Dietrich, at the time Howard’s financial advisor. He was jealous of Frye, viciously bad-mouthed
him to Hughes, and Jack was brutally fired. There is no doubt that Dietrich deliberately
orchestrated the ouster of one of the industry’s most far-sighted and charismatic leaders.”
“What cost Frye his job, and also cost TWA dearly, was an ill-timed 25-day pilot’s strike in
1946, just when TWA was getting its postwar international service into full operation, and about
the same time Hughes was recovering from near-fatal injuries suffered in a plane crash
(Beverly Hills). Dietrich managed to convince Hughes and TWA’s board of Directors that the
strike was Frye’s fault, and that Jack’s mismanagement had put the airline in a precarious
“Both these claims were outrageously false, but Dietrich timed his campaign against Frye to
coincide with the post-crash trauma Hughes was experiencing. Howard was in no shape either to
judge or grasp what really was happening at TWA in those difficult months, and foolishly
believed what Dietrich was telling him.”
“The cold-blooded execution of one of the airline’s most brilliant presidents was unnecessarily
cruel in the way it was handled: a terse one-sentence announcement to all TWA officers and
employees that “Jack Frye is no longer associated with the Company.”
“This was the official epitaph for the man largely responsible for elevating TWA to its
leadership position as one of the nation’s five most influential air carriers. If Hughes hadn’t
personally authorized that humiliating final slap-in-the-face, he certainly did nothing to stop it.
Yet to his dying day, Frye refused to blame Howard for his ouster and would scold anyone who
criticized Hughes.” -Robert J. Serling-
Two other noteworthy corrections of inaccuracies in aviation history in regard to Frye, from
Serling, was that contrary to popular belief, it was not Dietrich who was the first to rush to
Hughes’ side in Los Angeles after Hughes’ accident (1946) but Frye. (I myself have been told
Frye camped out near Hughes’ room for 24 hours straight). The second observation was that “it
might have been Hughes who held the purse strings of TWA but it was Frye who held the reins!”
Bob Serling admired my work and offered to write the forward to any upcoming work project of
mine; pro-bono. This was the ultimate compliment for me, as I admire Bob greatly, (a man who
knew everyone in the airline industry, to include Jack Frye) and was the utmost authority on
aviation history. I submit his sentiments on this page as testament to the true legacy of Jack
Frye stated more concisely than any other aviation historian could possibly convey. "Thank you
Bob for your enthusiasm toward my project and your admiration of Jack Frye!"
Final Word on Hughes
In regard to Hughes-Frye history, I take issue with some of those who have come out of the
woodwork writing books stating they knew Howard Hughes, so very intimately. The flaw in
these writings is that the majority of these associates knew Howard (or didn’t) at the end of his
life when Hughes was not accessible to anyone and in poor mental health.
Jack Frye (the real deal- a true aviation pioneer) knew Howard Hughes from the late 1920's. He
and Howard were close business partners throughout the 1940’s. (As Bob Serling stated to me-
Jack was a pilot and teaching men to fly long before Hughes even learned to fly.) Frye and his
wife Helen knew Howard intimately, even to the point of Howard staying at the Sedona Ranch
and other Frye homes, often. They knew Hughes before, after, and during, his accident and
aftermath, as close friends, not just business associates. It is interesting to me, that few of
these writers mention much about the Frye-Hughes dynamic (partnership) which if you truly
knew Hughes, you were well aware of, let alone the fact, that Frye and Hughes did not part
enemies, but rather stayed in close touch until Frye's death (this by hours long phone calls). So
it seems, many who state they have all the ‘goods’ on Hughes, really knew him the least. In the
late 1950's, Howard nearly sank TWA, by refusing to equip the company with modern jet-
powered equipment, which was the only aircraft that would allow TWA to remain competitive in
a world-wide market. Just another example of a man that made a fortune on tax-payer funded
defense contracts, but lacked the ability to manage his day-to-day personal operations
effectively, even to the point of the opposite, micro-managing them into the red. Hughes was
truly an enigma and a mystery. Howard spent the money, the men he appointed generated it.
Carter Burgess and Frye's Estate
Wrongful Death Lawsuit by Nevada Frye
Jack Frye’s funeral was held at Adair Funeral Chapel in Tucson Arizona on Saturday
February 7, 1959. He was buried at Grantwood Memorial Park. His funeral was held with full
military honors (according to his daughter, Nevajac Frye). This is evidenced by Chaplain Major
Earl Crow of Davis-Monthan A.F.B. officiating. Jack’s sister Sunny told me it troubled her that
there were so few people in Tucson who knew Jack closely that they had a hard time finding
enough pallbearers. Tragic it is that a man like Frye with so many friends at TWA would be in
this position at death. The pallbearers ended up being: Stanley P. Phillips, Ben W. Clawson
(Douglas Aircraft), E. O. Earl, Brig. Gen. Frederick R. Stofft, Schuyler Lininger, William W.
Charles, Paul W. Furst, and Arthur N. Pack. None were associated with TWA to my knowledge.
Jack Frye served as a Lieutenant Commander A V (S) United States Naval Reserve from 1934,
discharged in 1952. In 1921-22 he served with his brother Donald in the United States Corp of
Engineers. He was a member of the Army and Navy Club in Washington D.C. In 1946 he
received the Congressional Medal for Merit as awarded by President Harry S. Truman at the
White House, ceremony attended with his wife, Helen Varner Vanderbilt Frye.
Frye was re-interred at Wheeler Texas on July 8, 1989 in the Frye family plot along side his
brother Don Frye, who was also an early pilot and aviation pioneer. The loss of both her
brothers was almost more than Sunny Frye could bear; all through the years it was obvious to
those who knew her the admiration she had for Don and Jack and the anguish she harbored
that they both died so very young. The Frye Legacy- a Lifetime of Accomplishment.
Funeral With Honors- Well Deserved
Jack Frye Grave Site Wheeler Texas
I have had these photos from Jack's grave site for many years as I visit and leave flowers
whenever we travel back to Oklahoma City. I have not posted them as I always felt they were
somewhat inappropriate and macabre. But what with the popularity of the website "Find a
Grave" I knew eventually pictures of his grave marker would appear on the web. So my
conclusion is- better that the images appear on Jack's website first.