A Southern Gentleman and a Great Man

June 13, 2022
Ralph Hood was a great man and a greater influence.
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I’ll never forget the first call I got when I joined Airport Business.

Less than 24 hours after accepting the position, my phone rang and on the other end I was greeted by a friendly southern gentleman named Ralph Hood. He told me who he was and how he wrote in every issue of the magazine since it was founded in 1986. He talked about his time on the speaking circuit. He talked about life as a kid in Georgia. He reminisced on his work in the industry. He even explained his journey across the south to eventually residency in eastern Tennessee.

He even explained to me his talk with Oprah—who called him a funny man—when I told him I’m from Milwaukee.   

The call lasted 90 minutes. By the end of the week, I had a package at my desk—a signed copy of his book and letter wishing me luck on the new position.

It’s not often you receive a care package from someone you’ve never met before congratulating you on a new job, especially when they send it before you actually start in your new job.

Ralph Hood was one of a kind and there will never be another like him. He passed away June 1 at the age of 81.

Ralph’s style was unique for an industry publication. Hidden inside pages of technical articles and leadership profiles you would find his slice of life takes on topics in the industry. Whether it be reminiscing about selling aircraft, visiting airports, visiting schools, or frankly just spinning on about childhood and his road to the industry, Ground Clutter was always entertaining.

Even when he was railing on about the “guvment” or trying to goad the industry into unique takes like saying FBOs should take a page from roadside truck stops to improve their business model it was never offensive, but always entertaining.  

When I told him, “Ralph, you’re going to give me diabetes if you don’t tamp down the folksy stories,” he laughed and replied “maybe that’s a sign you need some more sweetness in your life.” Hard to argue simple homespun advice like that.

Ralph split ways with the publication at the start of the pandemic as he was contemplating slowing down a little bit. He kept writing a local column for the Erwin Record where he lived and sent the new pieces regularly to read. But the industry never forgot him and we continued to get requests from readers asking for him to return. In fact, the last one came about a week before he died.

He made an impact that only the son of a school superintend worker who turned to aviation could. He bridged generations, he looked to the future, he never forgot the past and most importantly, he did it with a smile and an honest attitude.

Ralph wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t officially let him “off the hook” for one more column, so he needs to know I’m giving him a permanent for all his hard work and contribution to the magazine and the industry.

And thank you for being the positive light the world needed and for being the kind of person so many of us needed in our lives even if we didn’t recognize it. So for you, Ralph, I’ll use an exclamation mark in a column just once for you!

Memorial donations may be made to the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame, 4343 73rd Street, North Birmingham, AL 35206 or to Heifer International, 1 World Ave., Little Rock, AR, 72202.  

About the Author

Joe Petrie | Editor & Chief

Joe Petrie is the Editorial Director for the Endeavor Aviation Group.

Joe has spent the past 15 years writing about the most cutting-edge topics related to transportation and policy in a variety of sectors with an emphasis on transportation issues for the past 10 years.

Contact: Joe Petrie

Editor & Chief | Airport Business

[email protected]


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