Oral Histories

Dennis E. “Pete” Byrd, Sr.


Pete Byrd

Q: This was based on production?

Pete: Yeah. With that I bought an airplane, with the down payment on that, I bought an airplane. The UTEX Aviation Company wound up in a lawsuit and I had to fire Verle Tibbs’ (wife ?). My old flight instructor who came from Texas because he’d take flights (from?) Mary ran the office and he wouldn’t turn in the money, he’d pocket it. Finally I fired him and he said “Aren’t you going to give me any severance pay?” I said “No, you’ve been stealing from me all along.” He said “Okay.” He said “Now, I want to tell you something, Dennis.” “You think that guy, Steen, is your friend.” He says “He’s not your friend. One of these days he’ll pull your strings and you won’t jump high enough and that will be the end of you.” Well, he was exactly right. Charlie and his mother got so overbearing. The business got so great that I couldn’t satisfy them. It wound up in a lawsuit, a partnership lawsuit, that was as nasty as any divorce you’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, Charlie had one of his employees call up out there. We’d each put so much money, my money from the claim and him so much money, into the business and then he’d loaned the business some money.

Q: This is the airport business?

Pete: Yeah. When he decided that it was going to bankrupt him, well, he abandoned the whole thing with the loan. I had to pay it for him. Unfortunately, Mary, one time when we had some money, they called her up and demanded it and she gave them some money. As a result of that, the judge had to rule that when you make a payment on an alleged obligation, the obligation becomes valid. So we lost the lawsuit. It cost us all the money we had in savings for our kids and a year later the judge told me, he said “You didn’t pay that guy that money.” He says “He wasn’t entitled to that but there wasn’t any way you could prove it. I thought you’d take out bankruptcy.” I told him “I took it all out of savings and paid him off.” Well, during the time when we changed the name to Byrd Aviation and I operated the airport until the middle of 1956. We had been growing by leaps and bounds. We were buying more airplanes, hired pilots, and one morning I looked around and I had about three pilots sitting there with nothing to do and the airplanes sitting out there not running. That prospecting, promoting phase of the uranium industry had changed. It was over.

Q: Like overnight?

Pete: Overnight. In the meantime, I had made a deal with Mr. Floyd Odlum, who was the president and founder of Atlas Corporation who had bought the Pick Mine which was north of Hanksville near the Muddy River and paid $9 million dollars, supposedly $9.2 million dollars cash, for it. As a result of that, him and Atlas Corporation had sold Congor Aircraft Company to (General Dynamics?). They had also sold (Sun Ray DX?) Oil Company, something or sold the company or something and he was sitting on about $30 million in cash. So he decided to invest in the uranium industry. The Pick Mine was the first thing. He had two pilots. Odlum’s wife was Jacqueline Cochran, a famous woman aviator, a race pilot. He had a Lodestar put in. The Lodestar was very much like Charlie’s first plane. He had a pilot and co-pilot that worked for him and they became real good friends. Through them, he learned that I had these interests in these mining claims. In the meantime, this E. L. Cord outfit had paid the down payment, giving the $5,000 down payment but then they wouldn’t pay. We let them drill holes and they found ore. They wouldn’t pay any more because they were having boundary disputes. Almost a year later, I found out that they were making their own boundaries just because they were trying to make their claim bigger. So I wound up selling some of my interests to Odlum. In doing that, when he found out about it and decided he wanted to buy it, he was up at the Utah Hotel and he sent that Lodestar down here to pick me up and take me to him. Here was a guy that had borrowed $1,000 to move and was now being flown to Salt Lake to make a deal. I got acquainted with him. Later on, I went to the ranch at Indio. He hired me, basically because of the knowledge I had of what was gone on. Because I’d flown all over the country and knew a lot of these miners and what they were doing and what they were claiming they found and everything. He merged a whole slew of companies together, Federal Uranium, Radorock, Hecla, and all these things. He had a little company that he called the Davidson Syndicate. The Davidson Syndicate was a group of investors that he put together to go to Yemen and drill for oil. Before they got over there, the King’s brother had the King beheaded and the deal fell through. So they were sitting on this money that they’d raised to go over there. So they decided to invest it in the uranium industry. As such, this Davidson Syndicate, they had a little office down in Monticello and a guy named Davidson running the thing. Odlum had an idea he wanted to get rid of Davidson, so he hired me to take over that little operation. Then he had a son named Bruce Odlum. He had two sons, Bruce and Stanley, and his first wife was Hortense. She was the manager of the Bonwit Teller Store in New York. Bruce was mixed up in the movie industry. He produced a movie. Odlum had already bought RKO or Atlas had, and had a lot of other things like that. Anyway, he hired me and merged this company. First, he incorporated and then he merged it into five other companies. By the end of 1956, it was a full time job for me.

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