Hugh Durwood Maxwell Jr., USAF
Hugh Durwood Maxwell Jr., USAF
  • May 22, 1916 - July 2, 2017
  • Altamonte Spring, Florida

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Col. Hugh Durwood Maxwell, Jr., USAF-Ret., 101, of Altamonte Springs, FL passed away on July 2, 2017. He was a loved and respected father, brother, brother-in-law, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend. Hugh was born at home on May 22, 1916 to the late Hugh D. & Sadie Tyndall Maxwell in rural Duplin County near Pink Hill, NC. He was delivered by his grandfather, John Flavius Maxwell, the local doctor, assisted by his father H.D., who later became the first licensed male midwife in NC. Hugh skipped 7th grade and entered high school at 12. By the time he was 13, he had been issued a driver's license to drive a school bus, and at 15 was elected President of his senior class in 1932. As he said, "I was a pretty big fish in a very little pond." When he set off for the University of North Carolina at 16, everyone assumed he would attend medical school and return as Young Doctor Maxwell, but, to their dismay, he decided to major in Journalism.

After college, he returned home to help his father and worked a while on a local paper, but could see that war was looming. Hugh learned of the Flying Cadet program in 1939 and by January 1941, after surviving the training, pinned on his pilot wings and Lieutenant bars and opened his first set of orders--Orlando Air Base. With the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, his year in paradise came to an abrupt end, as they took the train to Phoenix to pick up their brand new Billy Mitchell B-25 bombers, flew them to Long Island, NY and started anti-submarine patrols over the North Atlantic in January, 1942.

Later in 1942, he took over a longer-range, four-engine B-24 Liberator and flew the “southern route” down to Natal, Brazil, across the Atlantic to Dakar, Senegal and north over the Atlas Mountains to Port Lyautey, French Morocco, where he and his crew flew convoy escort and anti-sub patrols. In August 1943, he and two German Focke Wulf 200 four-engine bombers locked in mortal combat over a convoy and all shot each other down, a story featured in the May 2015 issue of the Smithsonian Air and Space Magazine ("World War II's Oddest Dogfight").

In 1944, Hugh returned to the States and instructed on the new B-29 Super Fortress in Clovis, NM. After the war, he stayed in the Air Force, intending to keep flying. Instead, he was assigned to The Pentagon in 1946, where he met and married Helen Jean Ragsdale of Williamston, SC, in 1947. Their first child, Suzanne, was born at Bolling AFB in Washington in 1948. Assigned next to Pepperrell AFB in St. John’s, Newfoundland, young Hugh D. III “Maxie” was born in 1950. Although Hugh stayed on flying status, he spent his career as an Intelligence Officer. He returned from Newfoundland to the Pentagon, and in 1957 after completing the Air War College, was sent to Tokyo, returning in 1960 to the Pentagon yet again. In 1964, he was assigned to the Aeronautical Chart and Information Center in St. Louis, MO. After a serious auto accident in 1966, Col. Maxwell retired in 1969 to his original duty station--Orlando, Florida, where they had a house built in Glen Arden Heights in which they both lived the rest of their lives. Hugh and Helen traveled extensively after retirement, visiting friends and family all over the world. They were active in community affairs and volunteer work for many years until Helen’s death in 2009 at age 86.

Hugh remained active and engaged with the assistance of his amazing mind and trusty computer, and in recent years became a minor celebrity when he was able to fly a restored B-25 at the age of 99. ( On his 100th birthday, at a ceremony downtown, Mayor Jacobs proclaimed it “Hugh Maxwell Day” in Orange County. In just the last few months, he was contacted by the granddaughter of one of his B-24 crew, who shared with him photos he had never seen of their time in North Africa and their rescue at sea. He died at home in his easy chair, attended by his loving son, Maxie.

Hugh was preceded in passing by his parents, his wife, Helen, and his sisters, Ruby, Violet and Rose. He is survived by his daughter, Suzanne Maxwell Perini (Michael) of Woodland Park, CO; son, Hugh D. Maxwell III of the home; sister-in-law Betty Volkert of Spring Hill, FL; grandchildren, Taggart Maxwell Bradbury (Mary) of American Fork, UT, Katherine Maxwell Downey (Ryan) of Ft. Myers, FL, and Megan Maxwell Bertsch (Ryan) of Gainesville, FL; great-grandchildren Taggy, Wendy, Maisey, Anna and Brad Bradbury all of American Fork, UT, and William Maxwell and Jay Royden Downey of Ft. Myers, FL; as well as a host of other nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, July 14, 2017 at 12:30 with a memorial gathering to follow at Maitland Presbyterian Church, 341 N. Orlando Ave., Maitland, FL 32751. Inurnment with military honors will follow at Glen Haven Memorial Park, 2300 Temple Drive, Winter Park, FL 32789.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made in memory of Col. Maxwell to the 93rd Bombardment Group Association at 995 Cottonwood Lane, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601 (Attn: Jim Lux). Donations will benefit the establishment of the “Hot Stuff Memorial” in Iceland commemorating the B-24 “Hot Stuff,” which crashed on its way back to the States to begin the barnstorming tour which the “Memphis Belle” completed. Among those killed was Gen. Frank Maxwell Andrews, namesake of Andrews AFB, who was to be given the job of Supreme Allied Commander.