Over the past two days, we’ve talked a great deal about flights in and out of the Cyril E. King airport on St. Thomas. But did you ever wonder who the airport’s namesake was?
The Virgin Islands Port Authority shared some details about Mr. King yesterday, the day that would have been his 99th birthday, and we found it to be very interesting. So we thought we would share it all with you today. The following was originally published by the Virgin Islands Port Authority:
Cyril Emmanuel King was born in St. Croix on April 7, 1921. King served with the U.S. Army during World War II, and in 1951, he received a bachelor’s degree in public administration from American University.
In 1949, he was appointed as an aide to Senator Hubert Humphrey, becoming the first black man to serve in the office of a U.S. senator. In 1957, the Organic Act Committee of the Virgin Islands legislature voted to appoint King as its deputy in Washington, D.C., to secure congressional action to amend the Organic Act, the “constitution” of the Virgin Islands.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed King as the U.S. Virgin Islands’ government secretary – a post equivalent to the present position of lieutenant governor. King was Acting Governor of the Virgin Islands for six months in 1969 and was elected to the Virgin Islands Senate in 1972. In 1974 he became the territory’s second elected governor for a four-year term. He died in office on January 2, 1978.
(According to his obituary in the New York Times, Mr. King died of cancer.)
Construction of a new airport terminal on St. Thomas began two years after his death. King was instrumental during his term as governor in helping the territory obtain federal funding to build the new terminal and the critical expansion of its too-short runway. On October 3, 1984, the former Harry S. Truman Airport was renamed in honor of the late Governor King to memorialize his service and dedication to the people of the USVI – per Act 4993. The terminal was completed in October 1990. The runway was extended from 4,200 feet to its present 7,000 feet length in 1992. The airport features one of the largest deep-water, dredged runways in the Caribbean.
The Virgin Islands Port Authority received funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce-Economic Development Administration in 2019 to begin phase one of a massive upgrade and modernization of the airport terminal. Phase one of the project, which entails the construction of a $20 million, 700-parking space garage and transportation center, is slated to begin this year.
Isn’t that an interesting story? If there is something you are interested in learning more about with regard to St. John, please send us an email at [email protected]. In the meantime, have a great day everyone! Stay safe, and wash those hands! 🙂
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