Ames Municipal Airport renamed in honor of James Herman Banning, historic Ames aviation pioneer


Nicole Hasek

The Ames Municipal Airport terminal now houses an exhibit honoring James Herman Banning among other historical Ames pioneers in aviation.

Ward 1 Rep. and Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Betcher hosted the renaming ceremony for the terminal of the Ames Municipal Airport, now the James Herman Banning Airport Terminal.

Before the new sign for the terminal was revealed Betcher spoke on how this renaming came to be.

“He was a nationally recognized pioneer of flight, a man with ties to Ames and Iowa state, and he also happened to be an African-American,” Betcher said. “This seemed a way to call more of our residents into our community history, as my council colleague Anita Rolllins put it.”

Ward 3 Rep. Anita Rollins was in attendance, as well as At-Large Rep. Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen, Iowa State Senator Herman Quirmbach and Iowa State University President Wendy Winterstein.

Besides the new name, an exhibit dedicated to Banning was installed on one of the walls within the terminal. A joint production from the Ames History Museum and Discover Ames, the exhibit includes pictures and text explaining who Banning was as well as his accomplishments.

Christopher Hart, Banning’s great nephew and the first African-American Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, joined Betcher during the renaming ceremony and spoke on Banning’s legacy.

“In 1932, Banning and his copilot mechanic Thomas Allen became the first African-American pilots to fly across America,” Hart said. “Ames was an important stop of Banning’s journey into the chapter of American aviation history.”

This renaming of the airport sparked a new policy outlining the process for Ames residents to propose renaming municipal buildings after historical individuals, events, or places.

During the process of the renaming, other historic aviators of Ames were suggested and although they weren’t picked they were included in the exhibit within the terminal.

“I think we’re going to be looking at other ways to acknowledge other iconic aviators,” Betcher said about these other recommended individuals. “I think there’s more to be told.”

Neta Snook, Frederick Douglass Patterson, Hap Westbrook were displayed alongside Banning in the exhibit, each with a long list of accomplishments. Snook was the first woman aviator in Iowa and the first woman to run her own aviation business where she taught Amelia Earhart how to fly. Patterson was an ISU alumni, president of what is now Tuskegee university and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Westbrook was in command of a B-24 bomber during WWII, he was captured by the Nazis but later liberated and went on to help establish the Iowa Air National Guard and later ran Hap’s Air Service pilot school in Ames.

The James Herman Banning terminal is open to the public from 6am to 7pm during the week and 7am to 7pm on weekends for anyone interested in seeing the new exhibit.