MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) - Richard Stroud spent six decades as an engineer at Lockheed Martin. Before his lengthy career designing planes, he flew them for the Navy.
Stroud, 94, spent 62 years with the aerospace and defense company, a flagship Marietta employer. Prior to that long career as an engineer, he served in the Navy for seven years of active duty and another 10 years in the Reserve.
In his armed forces career, the Bonham, Texas, native participated in both World War II and the Korean War, a pair of conflicts separated by only five years. When Stroud graduated from his Texas high school in 1944, he volunteered for the Navy and trained as a machine gunner.
He entered World War II during its waning moments. Just as he was on his way to combat in 1945, the war came to a close.
“I was on the way to the southwest Pacific when the war ended, so I laughingly take credit for the end of World War II,” he said jokingly. “Emperor Hirohito heard that I was on the way to Japan, and he said ‘I give up.’”
After World War II, instead of leaving the Navy and going home, Stroud asked to be placed in flight training. He earned his degree from the University of Texas before going to flight school in Pensacola, Florida, and Corpus Christi, Texas.
“After I got my wings, I was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia,” he said. “In June of 1950, the Korean War started so I stayed in (the Navy) for the Korean War.”
During the Korean War, Stroud spent two years piloting planes along the east coast to look out for Russian military personnel.
“My squadron, we were on a carrier for two years, and we’d cruise up and down the east coast from Cuba to Iceland 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.
Stroud’s youngest daughter, Dana Franklin, said her father speaks fondly of his time in the Navy.
“My dad looks back on his military service with a sense of pride that he could serve his country that he loves so much,” Franklin said. “He loves to tell stories of his time as a Navy carrier pilot. Personally, I find it incredible that a country boy from Texas who never had the chance to learn to swim actually signed up for the Navy and learned to fly over the oceans and land on small aircraft carriers.”
Immediately after his time as a pilot during the Korean War, Stroud knew he was destined for the private sector rather than continued service in the Navy. According to the veteran, the Department of Defense cut its budget, so he had to find a new career pathway.
Following his service in the Korean War, Stroud moved to Florida for an engineering job. Soon after, he saw a magazine advertisement seeking engineers for Lockheed Martin in Marietta.
’I came up and interviewed, and they hired me on the spot,” he said. “I stayed there 62 years and four months as an aeronautical engineer.”
When he moved to Marietta, he went to night classes at Georgia Tech to earn his degree in aeronautical engineering.
Stroud said he lived in Marietta for 37 years from 1952 to 1989 before moving to Hogansville, a small Georgia town northeast of LaGrange. After a decade there, he returned to Cobb County to live in Kennesaw, where he stayed from 1999 until 2010.
Throughout more than 62 years with Lockheed Martin, Stroud said he was involved in designing 20 different types of aircraft. In his late 80s, he decided to retire from the company in 2015.
Now, Stroud lives with Franklin and her family west of Cartersville in Bartow County, where he moved about 10 years ago. Throughout his lifetime in Georgia, he has remained active in his church communities. In Marietta, he was an active member of Roswell Street Baptist Church. In Kennesaw, he was a member of Kennesaw First Baptist Church. Now in Bartow, he remains involved at Cartersville First Baptist Church.
At his current home, he lives with his family on about 5 acres of land, and he continues to stay active every day. According to Franklin, her dad will spend his time working with livestock and tending to the land.
“At the age of 94, Dad is blessed with good health and with the will to work,” Franklin said. “He loves getting outside in our yard to mow the grass, trim the weeds, drive the tractor, feed the cows and chickens, and anything else that helps our family.”
Family members say it helps that Stroud was born in Texas, a state known for its sweltering heat, where he would work in the rays of the sun at midday.
“Like a true Texan, he doesn’t like to get out in the cool of the morning to work,” Franklin said. “He waits until the heat of the day to work in the yard simply because he loves hot weather. When the work is done, he loves to spend his time reading books about true war stories from the past.”
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.