Noted car and airplane collector General William Lyon passed away on May 22, at the age of 97. General Lyon, without question, led an achievement-filled life. Even more impressive is the fact General Lyon’s many accomplishments were wide ranging, as he made his mark as a successful businessman, a decorated member of the military and an active supporter of the community.
During General Lyon’s distinguished military career of more than 35 years, he flew combat missions in Korea, as well as several assignments in Europe, the Pacific, and North Africa during World War II. General Lyon received numerous awards and decorations, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal (with three oak clusters), and the Presidential Unit Citation.
General Lyon’s military contributions further extended to serving as Chief of the Air Force Reserve from 1975 to 1979. In this position, he was responsible for managing a $700,000,000 budget as well as the activities of some 53,000 Air Force reservists.
After his military service, William Lyon started building homes for returning military personnel and others in Southern California. This modest effort evolved to become William Lyon Homes, Inc., which went on to become one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, constructing more than 100,000 new residences in in the western US.
General Lyon’s business success wasn’t limited to homebuilding. During the 1980s, General Lyon established a multifamily real estate company to further diversify his real estate holdings which led to the acquisition, development and management of over 10,000 apartment units. In 1981, he and a partner purchased AirCal, a regional air carrier based in Newport Beach, California. General Lyon served as their Chairman & CEO until 1987 when he merged AirCal with American Airlines. His love of flying then led him to purchase Martin Aviation, a fixed based operator at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, as well to establish the Lyon Air Museum.
For more on the Lyon air Museum, visit www.lyonairmuseum.org