Earnest "Earnie" Shelton was born in Adair County, Missouri. In 1935, he graduated from Brashear High School in Brashear, Missouri, and shortly after had his first flying experience with a barnstormer in Colorado. Earnie enlisted in the Missouri National Guard in October of 1935 and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in May of 1941. With the outbreak of World War II, his unit was assigned to Alaska where he was a platoon leader and company commander in the Aleutian Islands Campaign. He was sent to infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia in July of 1943 and then to the 315th Infantry Regiment, 79th Division, in the European Theater where he participated in combat operations in France, Holland, Belgium and Germany until the end of the hostilities.
Earnie returned to Fort Benning, Georgia in 1945 as a Tactical Officer at the Officer Candidate School. He returned to Europe in 1950. In 1954 he again returned to the United States serving at Fort Benning and Fort Bragg. In 1957 he was assigned as an Intelligence Officer in South Korea after which he returned to the United States in 1959 to attend the General Staff College Combat Course at Fort Leavenworth. During the next twelve years he served on various assignments in Germany, Vietnam, Korea and the United States, retiring in 1971 as a Lieutenant Colonel. His Military decorations include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit and the Purple Heart. Following his retirement from the Army in 1971, Earnie settled in Columbus where he pursued his earlier interest in aviation: he had first soloed cross country on December 7, 1941. He obtained his private license, and over the next few years, earned his instrument and multi-engine ratings, commercial license and flight instructor certificates.
By 1978, Earnie was a full-time instructor and known as the "Cornerstone" of general aviation at the Columbus Airport. Over the next twenty-five years, he taught more than 500 Columbus area pilots. Earnie has also served as the local FAA Accident Prevention Counselor, where he organized monthly aviation safety meetings for Columbus area pilots and aviation enthusiasts. A major public promoter of aviation, Earnie conducted weekly tours of the airport facilities for children and senior citizen groups, introducing over 75,000 Chattahoochee Valley residents to aviation. In 2006, the Consolidated Columbus Government recognized Earnie's contribution to aviation by renaming the road, which runs by the hangars and general aviation facilities at the airport, "Earnest A. Shelton Drive."
In recognition of his distinguished contributions to the field of aviation, Lt. Colonel Earnest A. Shelton was enshrined into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame on February 14, 2009.