Colonel Robert Edwin “Sky King” Darlington (Ret.)

Colonel Robert Edwin Darlington, affectionately known as Sky King, passed away on February 16, 2008, at the Lamun-Lusk-Sanchez Texas State Veterans Home in Big Spring, Texas.He was born in Denton, Texas, on August 7, 1929. He was 78. Colonel Darlington had a remarkable and distinguished thirty year career in the United States Air Force. He served his nation as a jet fighter pilot in two wars. In November of 1949 he joined the Air Force graduating in the Aviation Cadet Class of 50G. Following he went to James Connley Air Force Base in Waco, Texas, Williams Air Force Base near Phoenix, and Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas where he trained in the F-80. He flew missions in the Korean War out of Itazuki, Japan and Kimpo Air Force Base in Korea.

On July 5, 1951, Sky King’s plane crashed and burned shortly after take off due to plane malfunction. He was pulled from burning wreckage and his life saved by two Korean women working in the rice fields. He was hospitalized with severe burns until September 1952 at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. In 1952 he went to Squadron Officers Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. Upon graduation he went to Nellis Air Force Base training in the F86. His next assignment to Korea was cancelled due to the signed truce. Instead he went to Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico. November 1954, the day before Thanksgiving, brought new assignments for Lt. Darlington. He was stationed in Luxembourg and Etain, France until Christmas of 1955 and in Bitburg, Germany from 1955 – 1957 where he flew the F100. From 1957-1958 he was stationed in Oklahoma. In 1958-1960 he was at the 12th Air Force Headquarters in Waco, Texas. He was stationed in Japan with the 5th Air Force Headquarters from 1961-1964. Re-stationed at 12th Air Force Headquarters in Waco, Texas from 1964-1966. He served in the Vietnam War flying reconnaissance in the Skyraider from 1966-1967. He served with the Royal Air Force in Weathersfield, England from 1967-1968 and with the Royal Air Force Woodbridge from 1968-1970. He went on to Headquarters TAC and was Chief of Flight Safety from 1970 – 1972 in Virginia. His last assignment was at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, Georgia. There, where he was dubbed The Silver Fox, he worked as the Air Force Advisor to the Georgia Air National Guard from 1972 – 1980. Before he retired, he supervised the unit’s switch from transports to F100’s and F105’s.

His awards include: Aviation Cadet Training Distinguished Graduate, Purple Heart with Device, The Distinguished Flying Cross, The Air Force Commendation Medal (First Oak Leaf Cluster), The Bronze Star Medal with Valor (First Oak Leaf Cluster), Air Medal with 5 Devices, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Silver Star, Republic of Vietnam Medal of Honor, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with 2 Devices, Korean Service Medal with 2 Devices, Air Force Longevity Service Award with 6 Devices, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with 2 Devices, United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Army Occupation Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, Combat Readiness Medal.

Since retirement in 1980 from the Air Force, Sky King lived in Midland, Texas, flying for Tiger Charter, a private jet charter service. During Tiger Charter days he was a popular pilot on board with many rock bands. Befriending Jimmy Buffet, he would teach Jimmy how to fly single props on their days between traveling and concerts. Jimmy affectionately called him Captain Bob. Col. Darlington is responsible for restarting the High School ROTC in both Midland and Lee High Schools. Today there are over 80 members in the program.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Frank Darlington and Madge Fyffe Darlington, of Austin, Texas; siblings, Frank Darlington, Jr. and his wife, Carol, of Seattle, Washington; Mary Elizabeth Moss and her husband, Winston, of Palos Verdes, California; and William Darlington of Palos Verdes, California; brother-in-law Guy Chandler, of Hearne, Texas.

He is survived by his loving wife of 54 years, Barbara Darlington; Daughter, Rebecca Townsend and husband, Jay, of Cornwall on Hudson, New York, and their children, Richard and James Harrison of Manhattan, Jonathan, Emerson and Oliver; daughter, Carol Merenda and her husband, David, of Suwanee, Georgia, and their children, Erin Booe and her husband, Ritchie, and their children Mariah and Ritchie Jr. of Missouri City, Texas, Angelo of Washington D.C., James Howell, of Meridian, Mississippi, Frank and Nicholas; son, John Darlington and his wife, Tami Lemons, of Dallas, Texas, and their children, Megan Madge and Sarah Grace; daughter, Mary Madge Darlington and her partner, Lisa Moore, of Austin, Texas, and their children, Max and Milo; and sister, Dorothy Chandler of Hearne, Texas and her family.

In celebration of his life, a Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, March 15, 2008 at 11:00 a.m. at the American Airpower Heritage Museum in Midland, Texas. An inurnment service will be at the Darlington Family grave site in Taylor, Texas, later this Spring. The family requests that memorials be directed to the AFJ-ROTC at Midland High School, attn: Major Spears, 906 W. Illinois Ave. Midland, TX 79701, or to Compass Hospice, 1003 E. FM700, Big Spring, TX, 79720, or to the charity of your choice. Arrangements are under the direction of Ellis Funeral Home of Midland, Texas. To place on-line condolences please visit http://www.mem.com http://www.mem.com.

“So here’s a nickel on the grass to you, my friend, and your spirit, enthusiasm, sacrifice and courage — but most of all to your friendship. Yours is a dying breed and when you are gone, the world will be a lesser place.” — Author unknown

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