Texas aviation and business icon William Paul Thayer, a World War II fighter ace, longtime Chance Vought test pilot and executive and eventually chief executive of LTV Corp., died Thursday. He was 90.
An Oklahoma native, joined the U.S. Navy prior to the start of World War II, earned his wings and served in the Pacific as an F4F fighter pilot. He was credited with six confirmed kills and four probable victories as well as nine aircraft destroyed on the ground.
After the war, Thayer worked as a transport pilot for Trans World Airlines. He joined Chance Vought Aircraft Co. as a test pilot in 1948 and became chief test pilot in 1949. He rose through the ranks to become company president in 1961 after it was acquired by Ling-Temco and later of the LTV Aerospace Corp.
In 1970, with the parent LTV Corp. in disarray, Thayer became chairman and chief executive officer and is credited with turning the company around.
In 1982 President Reagan nominated Thayer to be Deputy Secretary of Defense. He was confirmed by the Senate on January 12, 1983 and served for a year until resigning over an investigation into insider trading. In May 2005 Thayer was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to insider trading charges.