Ralph Kiker was born July 14, 1913 in Americus, Georgia. He learned to fly from Andy McILwrath in 1935 and took over the Americus Municipal Airport in 1938 when Andy went to work for TWA.
He was recruited by the Army Air Corps as a civilian pilot in December 1937. He was sought after for his great aviation skills that he acquired at the Americus Municipal Airport. He then became a flight instructor at the airport in 1939. In 1940, he was chosen as CAA Flight Instructor at Georgia South Western College in Americus. The USAAF recruited Ralph as a flight instructor at the Army Air Corps Base Souther Field. Souther Field was used a training facility for England for both British and American pilots. Kiker continued to work at the Americus Municipal airport during this time. From 1941 to 1944 He worked for Graham Aviation assigned to Army Air Corps 56th Flight Detachment Group Commander at Souther Field. He instructed hundreds of cadets to fly including R.A.F. cadets. Frank Cardamone remembered Ralph Kiker as one of the greatest pilots ever. During the years of 1945 through 1948, He worked to get the trade school Aircraft Mechanic course (for what is now South Georgia Tech) established while he also laid the groundwork for what is now the current airport. He also acted as an airplane sales broker-selling surplus – PT13’s and Gliders from surplus. He played a major role in working with the airport commission to get the runways paved between 1957 and 1961. In 1961, The Grand opening was held for the Americus Airport complete with state of the art lighted taxiways and runways that were extended to be able to accommodate larger planes that used radio navigation equipment. The runways were paved and modernized into the pattern you see today which Ralph Kiker laid the roots for so many of those improvements.
He also took one of the abandoned air corps buildings and used it as a hangar and gunsmith shop. He was renowned to be an exceptional gunsmith that could fix anything. He always had a gunsmith shop next to the hangar, sometimes using it to dope airplane wings. The Hangar later became the present location of the current airport. In 1945 the hangar from the old Americus Municipal Airport was moved from its location on Lee Street to the current location at Souther Field. The airport modified the hangar and renamed it after Ralph in 1986.
Kiker worked every day of his life at the Americus Municipal Airport except the occasional Christmas day. Although, it wasn’t really work for him, as he loved every second of flying and being a part of the airport. His wife was quoted in 1990 as saying, ” It was the airport/flying, the dogs/horses, the guns, and then me, that’s just the way it was.“
Ralph Kiker died of a heart attack on April 27, 1973. He was 59 years old. He was a one of a kind personality and his grandson is quoted as saying, “Trying to define Ralph’s spirit in aviation is almost impossible to capture on paper.”