Air museum opens doors in Carthage

Debby Campbell is a licensed pilot. As curator of the James Rogers McConnell Air Museum, which opened Saturday, Sept. 23, she’s been key in getting that project off the ground.

Located in Carthage, the museum is the only one devoted to aviation in Moore County. Its founder is Roland Gilliam.

“He does the big things,” Debby, who earned her pilot’s license in 2002, said. “The smaller stuff is what I do. It was always his dream to open an aviation museum.”

With that being said, a curator has to handle a variety of tasks.

“I do all the research. It’s harder than you would think,” Debby said.

James Rogers McConnell was a Carthage resident who went to France, where he became a pilot before the U.S. entered World War I. He was the first of 64 University of Virginia students to die in the conflict.

“It honors a local guy,” Debby said.

Air museum opens doors Carthage

Contributed photo.

Although Debby and her husband, an avid golfer, moved to the area just a few years ago, aviation has been an interest for some time.

“I’ve moved a lot, but I’ve been into aviation forever,” she said. “I learned how to fly in Anchorage (Alaska).”

A good amount of her own memorabilia came from her husband’s father, a pilot in Vietnam. The museum will showcase items from many eras, including World War I.

“We have a lot of Vietnam,” Debby said. “We have a lot of general aviation stuff. We have uniforms from the Air Force.”

To make sure the museum lasts well into the future, a conservative approach is being employed.

“We keep it simple,” Debby said. “We try to do it on a low budget.”

To keep resources coming in, Gilliam holds bingo at the museum every Thursday.

“All the proceeds go to keeping the museum going,” Debby said.

Admission to the museum is free, but donations are appreciated.

“I look at it as a community museum,” Debby said. “Not many people have known about it because we haven’t had a sign up.”

Having spent two years getting things prepared, Debby was confident as the opening approached.

“We’re ready to open,” she said. “It looks pretty good.”

In a place where residents and visitors have much to choose from, the museum seems to have the makings of a must-see attraction.

“It’s fun,” Debby said. “It’s another thing for people to do in the area.”

You’ll find the James Rogers McConnell Air Museum at 832 Dowd Rd. It’s open from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Feature photo: Debby Campbell, curator, and Roland Gilliam, founder of the James Rogers McConnell Air Museum/Contributed photo.

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel reporter Dave Lukow.

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