John Paul Riddle

Historical Marker #2251 in Pikeville notes the numerous contributions made to aviation by early airman John Paul Riddle.

New inventions bring about opportunities for those willing to think creatively and take chances. When the Wright brothers demonstrated their flying machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903, it caused a ripple effect that eventually brought unforeseen careers to thousands.

John Paul Riddle was born in 1901. He was only an infant when the Wright brothers made their historic flight, but his life would be changed forever by aviation, and he in turn would change the lives of others through flying. Riddle developed a fascination with flight from a young age. He graduated from Pikeville College in 1920 and soon started performing daredevil flight tricks for local viewers’ entertainment. Riddle soon took his flying skills to the US Army Air Corps, where he earned his flying wings.

After Riddle’s short term of service he started a company in Cincinnati, Ohio, with T. Higby Embry that delivered mail and packages and taught beginners how to fly. By 1928, Embry-Riddle was a well known name in aviation education. The company somehow weathered the Depression and maintained its excellent reputation, but Embry and Riddle parted ways.

While Embry moved on to California, Riddle took his talents to Florida and restarted the flying school in Miami. During World War II the school made valuable contributions to the war effort by training over 25,000 US and British service men on how to fly and maintain military aircraft.

Although Riddle sold his partnership in the flight school in 1944, he maintained close ties to the institution and was proud of its future accomplishments. Riddle went on to found a school in Brazil and developed other flight ventures there and in Florida. After a series of health issues, Riddle retired in the 1960s. He died in 1989 in Miami.