Tommy R. Hancock, age 88, of Little Rock, Ark., died Saturday, May 10, 2008, at Saline Memorial Hospital. Tommy was born on April 23, 1920, a son of the late William Henry (Red) Hancock and Essie Keene Hancock in Meridian, Miss., where he graduated from high school and Key Brothers Flying School. He was a veteran of World War II, having served as a hospital plane pilot, evacuating sick and wounded in the jungles of Burma. He returned to Meridian after World War II ended and became a charter pilot and flight instructor for Key Brothers Flying Service. He later became a civilian flight instructor for the United States Air Force in Missouri for eight years during the Korean War, before joining the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as an aviation safety inspector pilot until his retirement from the FAA in 1981. The next 11 years he spent as director of aeronautics for the state of Arkansas after being appointed to that position by then Arkansas Governor and later United States President Bill Clinton. Tommy conducted the first flight instructor refresher course in Arkansas in 1967 and continued them annually for the next 26 years until his retirement from flying in 1992.
Arkansas first started marking electric wires with 20" orange balls to make them more visible to pilots as part of Tommy's aviation safety program in 1970, a program now conducted worldwide. Tommy flew for 54 years and enjoyed every minute of it.
Tommy was preceded in death by his wife of 49 years, Pallie Jean Poole Pridgen Hancock, formerly of Meridian, Miss.; his parents; and his older brother, W. H. (Bill) Hancock.
He is survived by a son Tom Hancock, Jr., of Sacramento, Calif.; a daughter, Pam Newman of Jacksonville, Ark.; stepson, J. D. Pridgen of Erath, La.; a stepdaughter, Sudie Pridgen Hancock of Sacramento, Calif.; 14 grandchildren; 23 great-grandchildren; a brother, J. C. (Jimmy) Hancock of Bossier City, La.; and several nieces and nephews.
The family will receive friends from 6-8 p.m., Friday, May 16, 2008, at the funeral home.
A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m., Saturday, May 17, 2008, at Roller-Chenal Funeral Home Chapel, 13801 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock, Ark. (501)224-8300.
Interment will be at Pinecrest Memorial Park.