Dick Fortenberry was born Richard Terrell Fortenberry in Coleman, Texas in 1938 and spent his formative years in California. Lacking a concrete vision of his future, Dick joined the United States Army in March of 1956. Looking back this was a fortuitous choice. Here his aptitude placed him in the 77th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, NC where he completed Airborne School followed by Parachute Rigger School at Fort Lee, VA. Concurrently he took up sky diving, a sport in which he rapidly excelled, becoming the first three time winner of the National Championships in 1961, 1962, and 1963.
In 1959, Dick was chosen as one of the Original 19 members of the U.S. Army Parachute team, "The Golden Knights". Dick served with "The Golden Knights" until 1964. During that period he assisted in establishing 25 world accuracy records, earned positions on 4 U. S. Teams in which he was voted by his peers as team captain. Mr. Fortenberry competed in 3 World Championships, winning 3 Bronze, 2 Silver, and 1 Gold Medal. In Sophia, Bulgaria 1960, Dick became the first parachutist to score a dead center landing in competition in the world. On August 13, 1962 Dick Fortenberry was selected to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He competed in his last Word Championship in Germany against 26 countries. It was this competition that he won the titled "Overall World Champion"! Recognizing his exceptional performance, the U. S. Army awarded SSG Fortenberry the "Legion of Merit". In 1974 the Federation Aeronautic International (FAI) voted for Mr. Fortenberry to be the first American to receive the highest honor in parachuting. The "Leonardo De Vinci Diploma".
Having reached the pinnacle of sport parachuting he attended the U. S. Army Flight School, graduating 2nd in his class in 1965 and achieved the rank of Warrant Officer. After graduation he spent 15 months in Vietnam as a gunship helicopter pilot earning the Bronze Star and 26 Air medals, 2 of which were for Valor.
In 1968, Chief Warrant Officer Fortenberry left the Army and accepted a pilot position with the C.I.A. delivering aircraft to Air America in the Far East. He later became a corporate pilot for Mobil Oil Corporation where he continued flying for 22 years until retiring as their Training Captain in 1998.
Arguably America's most capable, honored, and famous parachutist of his time Dick and Linda, wife of 40 years, now reside in Savannah, GA. They are proud parents of twin daughters, Amanda and Jennifer, who both followed in their father's footsteps and became accomplished combat helicopter pilots in the U.S. Army flying Blackhawk helicopters on multiple tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.
In recognition of his distinguished contributions to Skydiving/Parachuting and Valor during his service in Vietnam, Richard "Dick" Fortenberry was enshrined into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame on April 29, 2017.