David Randall Kent Jr., 88, a lover of poetry and music, a World War II veteran and a pioneer in the fields of hypersonic and supersonic flight, passed away peacefully Wednesday, July 30, 2014, surrounded by his family in Ft. Worth, Texas. He was a native of Shreveport.
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Funeral services will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at All Saints' Episcopal Church at 5001 Crestline Road in Ft. Worth with a reception following in the Parish Hall.
He is survived by his loving wife, Ann Bazet Kent; children, David and wife, Jonell, Allen and wife, Suzanne, and John and wife, Dorothy; grandchildren, David "Chip" and wife, Brooke, Ricky and wife, Sara, Chris and wife, Vaishali, Michael and wife, Kate, and Hollis and Gracie; and great-grandchildren, Jade, David "Bear," Amber, Sanders, Charlotte, Brady, and August.
David Randall Kent Jr., son of David Randall Kent Sr. and Bessie Anita McDuffie, was born Jan. 25, 1926 in Shreveport. He graduated from Byrd High School in Shreveport, attended Texas A&M University, graduated from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1947, and received an Master degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University in 1949. He also attended Tulane University and completed all residency work toward a Ph.D. in classical philosophy.
While serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he was wounded in combat near Lammersdorf, Germany, as his unit advanced on an enemy gun emplacement. He was awarded the Purple Heart.
In 1947, he married the love of his life, Ann Bazet, of Houma, with whom he spent 66 very happy years. They are the parents of three children, six grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren, with whom he treasured spending his time.
He was unfailingly cheerful, kind-hearted and generous. A voracious reader with a phenomenal memory, he could recite poetry, verbatim, to fit any occasion. He loved classical music, and was especially fond of Rachmaninoff and Mozart. After church services on Sundays, he was known to play orchestral music very loudly on a stereo system he built himself, causing his rock-and-roll-obsessed kids to roll their eyes and plug their ears. Occasionally, he would sneak in a favorite big-band tune, and he later confessed to liking the Beatles.
He enjoyed the happy fellowship of motor-boating and sailing with friends. Despite living his entire adult life with a prosthetic left leg that resulted from his war injury, he took up snow skiing at the age of 47 and kept on "bombing the mountain" until he was 80. He traveled the world extensively, both for business and for pleasure, and he covered nearly every continent with his wife, Ann. His meticulous planning skills translated into epic family road trips to national parks, world's fairs and historic attractions. Frequent backseat altercations among his three boys were brought to a screeching halt by his stern admonition to "pipe down!"
At the Fort Worth Division of Convair in the 1950s and '60s, he served as the propulsion lead in several early, highly classified hypersonic aircraft design studies that pushed aerodynamic performance to new levels. In the 1960s and '70s at General Dynamics Fort Worth Aircraft Division (later Lockheed Martin Aeronautics), he was a key member of the core design team that produced the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a revolutionary, lightweight supersonic jet that became the principal frontline fighter of the U.S. Air Force. He served as vice-president of F-16 Engineering and director of Flight Test, and was vice-president and program director of the F-16XL project. As division vice-president and program director, he led the General Dynamics team in the Advanced Tactical Fighter program that ultimately produced the F-22 Raptor, the world's most advanced fighter aircraft. He had engineering roles on the B-36 Peacemaker, the B-58 Hustler and the F-111 Aardvark. As a member of the YF-16 design team, he shared the Collier Trophy Award for Achievement in Aircraft Design. He also received the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Aircraft Design Award, and the Institute for the Advancement of Engineering Project Team Award, both for the F-22 program. He retired from General Dynamics in 1991, and was a member of the Lockheed Martin Hall of Fame.
He was a member of the Tau Beta Pi Professional Engineering Society, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Air Force Association. He also was an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Astronautics and Aeronautics, Who's Who in Aviation and Aerospace, a member of the Louisiana State University Mechanical Engineering Department Advisory Board, and an Advisory Board Member of University of Tennessee Research Center. He was a member of the Phi Sigma Tau National Honor Society for Philosophy, received the Fort Worth Business Press Mentor Award and was named to the Byrd High School Alumni Hall of Fame. He served on the Quicksilver Resources Board of Directors, the Vestry of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Ft. Worth, and was an ex-officio member of the All Saints' Parish Day School Board of Trustees. Throughout his life, he supported many cultural and philanthropic organizations.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the All Saints' Episcopal Church Rector's Discretionary Fund, or to any charity.
The family would like to thank his many loving and devoted friends through the years, whom he cherished. Special thanks, also, to those who helped manage his health challenges during the final years, especially the staffs at Baylor All Saints' Hospital, VITAS Hospice and U.S. Renal Care.
Thompson-Harveson-Cole Funeral Home in Ft. Worth, Texas, is in charge of arrangements.
Thompson's Harveson & Cole
702 Eighth Ave.
Fort Worth, TX 76106
Published in Houma Today & The Daily Comet from July 31 to Aug. 1, 2014