Former United Airlines
President, CEO, and later Chairman James Hartigan, Sr., died at home in
Barrington, Illinois, on March 28 at age 95.
A native of Brooklyn, New York, Mr. Hartigan
started working for United in New York in 1942 as a junior passenger agent.
In 1945 he returned to United after serving
in the U.S. Navy during World War II, where he underwent pilot training
and later was a flight instructor in Florida.
Once discharged from military service, Mr.
Hartigan married his wife, Ann, in 1946.
Mr. Hartigan was named United's President
in 1981 and CEO in 1985, serving in both roles until 1987. He then served
as Chairman until his retirement in 1988.
We spent some time with Mr. Hartigan Sr.
at a gala black-tie dinner in New York when he was named “Man of
the Year” by The Kiwanis Club at LaGuardia Airport in 1986.
At the end of our conversation, I presented
a book we had created on the history of LaGuardia Airport as part of our
effort to save The Marine Air Terminal from destruction.
The book included pictures of the 42 street
Airlines Terminal that was located just across the street from Grand Central
Station in Manhattan.
I had created a detailed chapter tracing
the history of that beautiful art deco building that, when constructed,
was actually the first all-welded super structure building in Manhattan.
The Airlines Terminal was later destroyed
to make way for a new building that houses the world headquarters of Philip
Morris cigarettes. The point was of course was that our pioneer aviation
buildings needed protection.
I made the point to Jim Sr., declaring that
we were just damn lucky to be able to save the MAT LaGuardia, and he agreed
Mr. Hartigan looked at my book and the dozen
pages we devoted to the exquisite Airlines Terminal, and said softly:
“That is the building where I began
my career with United in 1942 as a dispatcher of the big 1940 Cadillac
stretch limos that would exit down a ramp from inside the buildings garage
onto 41st street and straight out to our waiting aircraft at LaGuardia,”
Jim Hartigan said.
I was particularly struck with what Mr.
Hartigan said next:
“Hey, there is Charlie and Fred,”
as he looked at the pictures of United people inside the Airlines Terminal.
He was looking at a picture and recalling
people he knew at that point in time more that 40 years prior.
Mr. Hartigan Sr.
was an everyman, just as regular as a favorite pair of shoes, with no
pretenses at all and the rare ability to get into a conversation, even
to a complete stranger, with something to contribute in an honest and
Later I realized that while he was reading
my book, he was also reading me and recognized our shared passion.
Jim Hartigan, Sr., has always remained in
our thoughts as has son Jim Jr., who served as President of United Cargo.
Jim Jr. was at the helm the last time UA
Cargo operated those DC-10 Freighters Jan spoke of in the above story.
Jim Sr. is survived by his loving wife of
73 years, Ann, and his children John Hartigan (Laurie) and Patricia Meenan
(James), his daughter-in-law Maureen Hartigan, as well as 11 grandchildren
and 12 great-grandchildren, and his brother John.
Sadly Jim Sr. was preceded in death by his
son James J. Hartigan, Jr.
A celebration of his life so well lived
will be held later in 2020.