WEST (July 26, 2011)—Arthur Warren “Kit” Murray, who was among the pioneers of early jet flight in the U.S., has died in a West nursing home at the age of 93.
A Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated 10 a.m. Friday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church of the Assumption in West, with the Rev. Ed Karasek as celebrant, under the direction of Aderhold Funeral Home.
Murray, who was born in rural Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains in 1918, first joined the United States Army in 1939 as a cavalry soldier, but soon after Pearl Harbor he signed up to fly.
After a year-long stint flying combat missions in Africa, Murray was assigned as a maintenance flight test pilot at the engineering school Chanute Army Air Base.
Once he completed his time there he was sent to Wright Field where he was able to join an elite group of pilots that test flew experimental aircraft.
His supervisors quickly saw Murray’s potential and he was named the first permanent test pilot at Muroc Airfield in California’s desert, which was to become Edwards Air Force Base.
Murray flew virtually every new jet aircraft the Air Force tested, including the first supersonic airplane, the Bell X-1A, X-1B, X-4 and X-5.
In 1958–1960, he was Air Force manager for the X-15 program, which attained record altitudes of 354,000 feet and a speed record of 4,534 m.p.h. (Mach 6.7).
The X-15 program contributed enormously to the space program’s high speed aircraft research, and was acclaimed as the most successful test program of its type.
Eventually Murray moved to North Texas where he became Air Force Requirements Engineer for Bell Helicopter in the tilt rotor program.
He worked for Bell until 1971, then gradually slowed down in retirement, but still doing many things interesting to him.
He managed a hunting club, flew some charter work for Mustang Aviation in Dallas then did some courtroom reporting for the Bosque County newspaper.
Murray also was project manager for the restoration of the Bosque County Courthouse, taking it back to its 1886 splendor.
Murray married Elizabeth Ann (Betty Anne) Strelic in 1943.
The couple had six children of their own and fostered a child.
The couple divorced in 1966 and Murray remarried in 1970 to Dallas Interior Designer Ann Humphreys.
They combined their efforts and expertise in renovating the Bosque County Court House.
The couple lived between West and Clifton on a small horse farm.
Survivors include his beloved wife of 41 years, Ann Murray of Clifton; five sons, Michael Murray and wife Jan of Bellevue, WA, John Murray and wife Anne and Peter Murray, all of Seattle, WA, Christopher Murray and wife Elna of Lihue, HI, and Patrick Murray of Philadelphia, PA; a daughter, Catherine Murray and husband Vincent Herberholt of Seattle, WA; three step daughters, Lynn Weaver and husband Dennis of Las Vegas, NV, Leigh Humphreys of West, and Laura Howard of Castroville; 16 grandchildren; 13 great grandchildren; 3 step grandchildren; a step great grandchild; and many nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.