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Fagg, Fred D. (Fred Dow), 1896-1981



  • Existence: 1896-1981


Fred Dow Fagg, Jr., was born on July 30, 1896, in Brooklyn, New York, son of Fred and Ida Alzina (Chase) Fagg. Fagg was an economics instructor at Northwestern University while in law school at NU. In 1929 Fagg returned to NU as a law professor, where he remained until 1947. During this time Fagg founded the Air Law Institute in Chicago and the Journal of Air Law. He was also a member of the Illinois Aeronautics Commission. Fagg left NU in 1947 to become the President of the University of Southern California.

After attending the San Diego Army and Navy Academy in Pacific Beach, California, Fagg entered the University of Redlands, Redlands, California. Caught up in the enthusiasm for the United States getting into World War I he left during has sophomore year to enlist in the U. S. Army Signal Corps. He completed his ground school training at Berkeley, California in December, 1917, and then was assigned to Rockwell Field in San Diego for flight training. His instructor at Rockwell also trained Jimmy Doolittle. Fagg received his advanced flight training at Ellington Field, near Houston, Texas. After being commissioned a second lieutenant he was assigned to the 92nd Aero Squadron, U.S.A.E.F., and in September, 1918, flew night patrols across the English Channel looking for German zeppelins.

After returning to the United States Fagg re-entered the University of Redlands. A well-built young man, he had a life-long interest in sports which manifested itself in college by two years of intramural basketball and a year of varsity football. He was also an excellent debater. He received his B.A. in 1920 and took his M.A. at Harvard in 1921. For the next two years he served as an instructor in economics at Harvard.

In 1923 Fagg was called to Northwestern where he taught as an instructor in economics and enrolled as a student in the School of Law. He received his J.D. degree in 1927 and returned to California. During the next two years Fagg was on the faculty of the University of Southern California, first as Assistant Professor of Economics and then as Associate Professor. He also served as Assistant Dean in the School of Commerce and as a lecturer in the School of Law. His interest in aviation surfaced again in 1928-29 which was spent as an exchange professor at the Institute of Air Law at Konigsberg, Germany.

Northwestern called on Fagg a second time in 1929 with an appointment as Professor of Law, a title he held until 1947. In 1929 he founded the Air Law Institute in Chicago and served as its managing director. This was the first institute of its kind in the country. On September 28, 1937, the Board of Trustees approved Fagg's appointment as Dean of the School of Commerce, succeeding Ralph E. Heilman who had died in February. When Franklyn Bliss Snyder was elected President of Northwestern in 1939 Fagg was chosen to succeed Snyder as Vice President and Dean of Faculties. Fagg held this office until he was elected President of the University of Southern California in July, 1947. He succeeded Rufus Bernhard von KleinSmid as president on September 1.

Fagg became involved in many governmental and other extra-university activities during has stay at Northwestern. From 1931 to 1937 he was a member of the Illinois Aeronautics Commission and helped to write aeronautics legislation for the state. This legislation was later used as the model for the uniform state aeronautical regulatory act. From 1932 to 1937 Fagg was Secretary of the National Association of State Aviation Officials, and in that capacity in 1934 urged the government to subsidize experimental work on aircraft. In 1946-47 Fagg had been Director of Northwestern's Institute of Aeronautics. In 1947-48 he was a member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the National Aeronautic Association.

Fagg also promoted the growth and advancement of aviation from the editorial chair. In 1930 he founded the Journal of Air Law and served as its editor-in-chief until 1937. Also in 1930 Fagg became managing editor of the Journal of Radio Law, a position he held until 1931.

Governmental activity drew heavily on Fagg's time and efforts, and he made substantial contributions in several areas. In 1934-35 he was a legal adviser to the Federal Aviation Commission, and in 1935-36 he served as legal adviser to the U.S. Senate subcommittee on aircraft investigation. His most important work with the government began in 1937 when he was appointed Director of the Bureau of Air Commerce within the Department of Commerce, succeeding Eugene Vidal who had left after a series of airplane crashes had aroused both popular and governmental cries for action. In fact, the Bureau was being investigated by a U.S. Senate committee when he took charge. During the next seven months Fagg completely remade the Bureau, set it in proper working order, and restored confidence in both the Bureau and its programs. Among these was a safety and planning section devoted to the discovery and study of improved safety devices for pilots. In 1938 Fagg helped to write the Air Commerce Act which later formed the basis for many commercial and private regulations. On the local level Fagg was a member and then chairman of the Chicago Association of Commerce's Aviation Committee which played a major role in the early planning for what was later named the O'Hare Airport.

Fagg's unique combination of skills in aviation, law, and education also proved fruitful at Northwestern where he developed a training program for aviation executives. During his tenure as Vice-President Fagg's major contributions included a restructuring of the liberal arts program by implementing a “units of study” arrangement which simplified and unified the body of knowledge believed essential for a liberal education. The new program also lessened the students' choices for elective courses. The School of Education developed a new educational program with an emphasis on speech instruction. Fagg was, of course, heavily involved in coordinating the various military programs on campus during World War II. His administrative abilities were also demonstrated in the setting up of a budget control system for the various schools in the University and in establishing a centralized office of admissions.

On August 25, 1924, Fagg married Vera Wilkes whom he had met at the University of Redlands. The Faggs have two children: Barbara Louise (later Mrs. William Buchanan), born in 1930, and Fred Dow III, born in 1935.

Many associations and clubs claimed Fagg as a member. He belonged to the American, Illinois, Chicago, and Los Angeles Bar Associations, and for the first served as a member of its Committee on Aeronautical Law. He has also been a member of Delta Theta Phi, Pi Kappa Delta, Delta Sigma Rho, Alpha Kappa Psi, Phi Beta Kappa (honorary), Phi Kappa Phi, Blue Key, and the International Aviators Club.

In 1939 the University of Redlands gave Fagg an L.L.D. degree and Northwestern awarded him the same degree when he came back to the university to give the commencement address in 1950.

On January 11, 1957, Fagg submitted his resignation as President of the University of Southern California, effective July 1, because of poor health.

Fagg was a well-organized administrator, an educator who believed in thoroughly planned programs, an enthusiast for all aspects of aviation, and a firm upholder of college sports and the “conservative” American way of life.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Fred Dow Fagg, Jr. (1896-1981) Papers

Identifier: 5/3
Abstract The Fred Dow Fagg, Jr., Papers are arranged in 58 sections. The first section includes biographical material and the others are based upon the manner in which administrative records were maintained in the Vice-President's office. The largest amounts of material can be found in the sections for Administration, Business Office (many items related to the budgets for 1939-46), College of Liberal Arts, Faculty, Graduate School, Medical School, Navy, Schools of Commerce, Education, and Law,...
Dates: 1937-1957