Howard H. "Mac" McWhorter, born in Phoenix, AZ., was reared in Athens, Ga. On his eighth birthday, his mother introduced him to flying with a ride in a Ford Tri-Motor. Mac was hooked, and for the next few years he spent his spare time at Ben Epps Air Field, doing whatever chore that needed doing, so long as he could be around planes and pilots and earn a bit of flight time. He soloed at an early age, embarking on a flight career that has ranged far for more than half a century.
In 1954, he graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science degree and an Air Force ROTC commission as a second lieutenant. McWhorter attended USAF pilot training in 1956. He completed advanced fighter training and flew F86Ds, F-102s, F-106s with fighter interceptor squadrons stationed in Vermont, North Carolina, Michigan and Alaska. While on air defense alert at King Salmon Air Force Station, Alaska, McWhorter and his wing man were scrambled to intercept declared hostile aircraft that had entered Alaskan restricted airspace. The “clear to fire” order had been issued and the flight vectored into position for attack when President John F. Kennedy negated the order to fire. The flight was then ordered to maintain a “ready fire” position of surveillance on the offending Russian bombers until they cleared the airspace. McWhorter was awarded the Air Medal for the mission.
In 1967, he was assigned to the 509th FIS at Clark Air Base, the Philippines, and deployed to Vietnam as flight commander and 405th Fighter Wing detachment commander at Bien Hoa Vietnam. He flew 250 combat sorties in Southeast Asia, and returned to the United States in 1969 to be assigned to the 94th FIS (ADC), Selfridge AFB, MI, as flight commander flying F-106s. During the 1970s, Mac served as operations officer to the 57th FIS (ADC) NATO, Keflavik AB, Iceland, flying F-102s. He was assigned to Headquarters Air Defense Command as Fighter Branch Chief of the command inspector general operational readiness inspection team, and as squadron commander of the 49th FIS (ADC, Griffiss AFB, NY), he led the squadron as team captain to a second place finish at “William Tell 74,” the Air Force World Wide Weapons Meet at Tyndall AFB, Florida. After a stint as deputy commander of resource management at the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) Combat Operation Center in Cheyenne Mountain, CO., Colonel Mcwhorter became base commander, Robins AFB, GA., where he retired in 1980. A command pilot with more than 5,000 hours fighter time and 26 years service, McWhorter has been current in 35 military and civilian aircraft with a total flying time of more than 19,000 hours. Colonel McWhorter’s awards include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with nine Oak Leaf Clusters, the Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Bronze Star.
Colonel McWhorter founded the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame in 1988 and served as Board Chairman during the formative years. He is a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, founder of the Georgia Airports Association, and a life member of the Order of Daedalians. In 1991 he received the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Presidential Citation for outstanding general aviation advocacy and service to Georgia aviation.
Colonel Howard H. "Mac" McWhorter, Jr., a veteran fighter pilot, dedicated aviation advocate and founder of the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame, was enshrined May 16,1998.