Group works to restore airport's name

Lt. Col. Harvey Weir Cook

Richard Essex/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - A group of volunteers and Indiana veterans hope to restore the name of the airport to honor an aviation hero.

A plaque in the hallway at Indianapolis International Airport commemorates Lt. Col. Harvey Weir Cook, a Wilkinson native and DePauw University graduate who was one of the first aviation war heroes from Indiana.

"He was an American hero and American heroes were respected and admired by kids in those days," said retired Marine Bob Book.

In 1943, Lt. Col. Cook, who had served on the 94th Aero Squadron with Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, died in a training mission. In his honor, the airport was named Weir-Cook Airport.

"I thought it was really a great thing at the time, when it was named 'Weir-Cook'," said Book.

The airport kept Lt. Col. Cook's name until 1976, when it was given it's current title.

"This board of just seven people, I think, back then decided among themselves, well, you know, they were going to change it and they will tell the public later," Christy Broady of the Weir Cook Community Project said.

"Indianapolis International Airport" was considered more trendy at the time.

"Why would they do a thing like this?" Book asked. "I was told they wanted to improve the name of Indianapolis across the country."

The new name offended veterans and some just didn't think the change was necessary.

"After they changed the name and opened it to the public knowledge, the public screamed," said Broady.

Over time, people forgot about Cook, until recently, when a plan to restore the Weir-Cook name was started up by a group of veterans and volunteers.

"Everybody says 'Great idea, we should make that happen'," said Ron Martin of the Veterans Coalition of Indiana. "Unfortunately, it hasn't happened."

Time is running short for the group. The opening of the new midfield terminal opens this fall and a name restoration would mean signs will have to be changed. So far, the Weir-Cook Community project has not found a place on the airport authority board's meeting agenda.

"Our plea is to get us a hearing before the airport authority, so we can get a thumbs up or thumbs down," said Martin.