This Week in Atlanta History: The Orly Field crash of 1962


On June 3, 1962, a plane leaving Orly Field in Paris crashed on takeoff. On board were 106 of Atlanta’s most prominent arts patrons, all of whom died in the disaster. Mayor Ivan Allen flew to Paris to represent the city and identify the bodies. Later, he recalled in his memoir, Mayor: Notes on the Sixties:

It is difficult to describe the feeling I had as we looked through the charred wreckage. Only twenty-four hours earlier this huge droop-winged plane had roared down the runway, headed back to Atlanta with intimate friends of mine aboard. They had spent a month happily touring the arts centers of Europe, had gathered valuable insights and ideas on what could be done to expand Atlanta’s culture, and had bought many expensive paintings, artifacts, and sounvenirs to take back hom for themselves or friends. … All over the area, scattered for hundreds of yards, there were the personal belongings of my friends. I recognized some of the pastel tulle dresses that Nancy Frederick, my first date, always wore and looked so beautiful in.

For the friends and families of the killed Atlantans, the personal tragedy was immeasurable. For the city itself, the sudden loss of leading arts patrons has had a ripple effect over the past fifty years.

In the June issue of the magazine, Felicia Feaster looks back at the crash and the evolution of arts in Atlanta. “Instead of devestating Atlanta’s arts landscape, the disaster became a tipping point for the city,” she writes. Read Feaster’s article here.