If you ask Germantown Academy
graduate Luke Closson Jr. ’61 if he’s ever been to a particular city, state or
country, chances are pretty good that he’s been there—twice.
With at least 10,000 flights
under his belt as a military, airline and civilian pilot, Closson has flown to
virtually every state in America and has made treks around the world—Europe,
South America, the Middle East and the Far East. He’s ventured as far north as
Moscow and Alaska and as far south as Buenos Aires. He’s traveled as far east
as Bombay and ventured west as far as Tokyo.
These days, Closson no longer
flies commercial jets, but has not given up his love of flying. Every summer he returns to Hilltown from his
home in Valdosta, Georgia to teach future pilots how to fly gliders, something
he’s been doing since 1976; just a little side job for when he’s not practicing
law at Closson, Bass & Tomberlin.
That’s right, in addition to
being a seasoned pilot, Closson is also a veteran attorney, two occupations
that rarely end up on the same resume. To understand Closson’s career, it’s
best to start at the beginning.
For as long as he can
remember, Closson always wanted to be a pilot. Following his graduation from
GA, he jumped at the chance to attend the initial year of the Air Force Academy
“During the 50s after the
Korean War there was a surplus of pilots in our country and virtually the only
place to fly jets was the military,” wrote Closson in an e-mail. “The only
guaranteed way to get to military pilot training was to be a service academy
Upon completion from the Air
Force Academy Prep School, Closson was appointed to the U.S. Air Force Academy
where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Science in 1966.
Following his graduation, Closson was sent to pilot training at Moody Air Force
Base in Valdosta, Georgia where he graduated near the top of his class.
“[I] was offered an
instructor assignment in the supersonic advanced trainers where I specialized
in formation and air-to-air,” wrote Closson. “I wanted very much to go to
Vietnam in a fighter since that was what I was training men to do. Despite several ‘agreements’ to send me to
Vietnam in a fighter, after three years of instructing others I was told the
war was winding down and I would be assigned a transport. Based on that I
resigned and applied to many airlines and was fortunate to be hired by Delta.”
During his 30-plus years
manning commercial planes for Delta and others, he found himself wanting more
out of his job. In the mid-70s, he noted that the airline industry was flat and
that he was feeling uninterested.
“While the job has a certain
amount of fun in it—after awhile it becomes somewhat boring and does not offer
much in terms of emotional or intellectual satisfaction,” wrote Closson. “I
decided to go back to school—having a combined,
Aero/Astro/Mechanical/Electrical engineering degree from the Air Force Academy,
I knew that was NOT where my interests lay. Many were getting MBAs and I wanted
Upon the suggestion of
friends, Closson applied to law school. He was admitted to The John Marshall
School of Law and transferred to the training department of Delta Air Lines at
the same time allowing him to work out a schedule which permitted him to study.
For three years Closson split his time between instructing pilots and his nose
in a book, and in 1979 his hard work paid off as he graduated Magna Cum Laude
from John Marshall.
To this day, Closson is still
passionate about law and helping those in need.
I have enjoyed my flying career immensely (it really was a lot of fun), nothing
compares to the satisfaction in representing injured workers and litigation,”
wrote Clossen. “If I could not try cases I probably would stop practicing law.”
As mentioned earlier, when
Closson isn’t practicing law, he can probably be found in the sky instructing
student-pilots on the ins and outs of glider planes.
got into gliding when a friend of mine from Pennsylvania called in the spring
of 1976 asking me to come and instruct gliding at a camp for teenagers in the
summer,” Closson wrote. “I told him I didn’t even have a glider license, but
would be happy to get one. I went to Tennessee and quickly qualified for a
commercial glider license. I showed up in PA in June 1976 and my friend told me
the FAA would be there the next day to give me an instructor check ride. Sure
enough he came and we started the oral exam—happily I had been teaching folks
to fly in the Air Force, for Delta and civilian flying for many years and the
oral was a snap.
we got into the glider and the FAA examiner advised me to treat him like a
student and that he would make the takeoff and I should instruct him. That was
fine with me since I knew I had almost no experience in gliders. A few seconds later I realized that I might
not know much about gliders, but I knew way more than he did. Suffice it to say I was a newly licensed
glider instructor. The next day, 21 young men ages 14-17 showed up with their
three instructors. By the time I had given seven ‘this is your first flight in
a glider’ speeches and continued on I was learning way, way more than they were
about gliding. I have been teaching gliding at Philadelphia Glider Council and
in southern Georgia ever since and have flown gliders in England and over the
Alps in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.”
Closson noted his education at
GA helped prepare him for college and his professional career.
“GA made a huge difference in
my life,” Closson wrote. “It was at GA that I was challenged directly, and most
important, very personally to learn and apply my education. It was the very
personal level of focus which made me begin to wake-up and realize that I had
responsibility to learn. The education and preparation at GA allowed me to sail
academically in college. The focus by my English teacher, Mr. Shoff, in coming
to understand that writing required re-writing and re-writing and that it was
work, but had results has really helped me throughout my legal career.”
Closson has proved that it’s
never too late to learn a new skill or be a student, an attitude toward
education that GA preaches to its students every day. What Closson will learn
next has yet to be determined, but you can bet it will involve soaring above