Eugene C. Marlin *
Newport News, Virginia
During his 30 year tenure as manager of the airport we know as Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, Eugene Marlin became well known for his resourceful and unique style of management.
By many accounts he was equally well known for his sometimes unorthodox but always effective management style of getting what he wanted for his airport. In 1947, following service in the Army Air Forces during WWII and as a salesman for Cessna Aircraft, Gene joined the city of Newport News as airport manager. The job should have been straight forward enough except for the fact that, at that time, there was no Newport News airport. Gene set about to rectify this problem and for 30 years dedicated himself to acquiring funds and building a modern airport that to this day provides airline and general aviation service to the peninsula and the cities of Newport News, Hampton and Williamsburg. Gene’s skill and perseverance before the Civil Aeronautics Board brought the peninsula its first airline service in 1949 and by his retirement 28 years later, had resulted in direct service to six major cities by four major airlines. Over the years Marlin would sell timber and lease land for a trailer park to raise operating funds. He would persuade often indifferent local and federal officials to provide funding for improvements to upgrade airline facilities and he would salvage and modify surplus buildings for the airport’s first terminal facility.
At one point Marlin convinced the Army to release a large area of adjacent land for a golf course. When construction was complete it was only a coincidence that one fairway, described by Marlin as the only 8000 foot par 5 in the country, looked like a new runway.
The airport known for 30 years as “Gene Marlin’s baby” is today an essential part of the national airspace system. While Gene’s unorthodox style might have raised some eyebrows, he was an effective manager and advocate for the airport. Gene could look back with great pride as being the man responsible for building what is now the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport.
YORKTOWN – Eugene C. Marlin, 95, a resident of Yorktown, Va., died peacefully at home on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009.
Employed as Executive Director and Airport Manager for the Peninsula Airport Commission from 1947 to 1977, Mr. Marlin felled the first tree to commence construction of Patrick Henry Airport. For the next 30 years he directed the growth and operation of the field, now known as Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport. Before retirement in 1977 he guided growth of the airport to jet service with 40 scheduled airline flights per day.
During his career as airport manager Mr. Marlin was awarded accreditation by the American Association of Airport Executives and was president of the South-Eastern Airport Managers Association. He left a legacy of accomplishment admired and acclaimed by many national, state and local aviation interests.
Born in Brunswick, Ga., on July 8, 1914, he proudly spoke of being a four-year old who helped sell war savings stamps to help finance WWI. Not until 50 years after the end of WWII was he acknowledged by the Air Force to be a veteran for his services as an officer flying in U.S. Army aircraft. Employed by TWA Intercontinental Division as a celestial navigator, he crossed the Atlantic 86 times in propeller-driven Army transport planes carrying troops and cargo to South America, Africa, England, France and the Middle East.
A 1932 graduate of Catonsville High School in Maryland, he attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and then earned a commercial pilot license. Before and after the war he operated several aircraft of his own. From 1934 until 1941 he held positions as buyer and purchasing agent at the aircraft manufacturing plants of both Glenn L. Martin Co. in Baltimore and McDonnell Aircraft Co. in St. Louis, Mo. Prior to his employment as an airport manager in Newport News, he inaugurated an unsuccessful airline service between Baltimore and Salisbury, Md., using surplus Army Air Force DC-3s.
A member and treasurer of Grace Episcopal Church in Yorktown, his participation in religious and civic activities kept him active in the community after building his home and moving there in 1977. As a charter member and president of the Rotary Club of Yorktown, Mr. Marlin was active for 30 years and awarded a Paul Harris Fellow in 1997. He was also involved for years as manager and Board Chairman of the Fifes and Drums of York Town.
In 1996 Mr. Marlin was granted a permit to operate a bed and breakfast enterprise in his home, known as Marl Inn. In 2000 he sold Marl Inn, moved to a smaller residence in Yorktown and then in 2006 moved to Colonial Harbor of Yorktown where he resided until his death. He was capably assisted over the past few years by faithful caregivers Nancy Emery and Rhonda Schell since family members were all located out of state.
Mr. Marlin, who never married, was a constant in helping family members through the years, both while manager of Patrick Henry Airport and after moving to Yorktown. He and his sisters lost their father to meningitis in 1915 and he remembered how family in Brunswick and St. Simons Island, Ga., and then a loving stepfather, Howard Barrington Diggs of Relay, Md., helped make a difference in all their lives.