Aviation and Automobile pioneer and legend, Jesse Gurney Vincent, was born February 10, 1880, in Charleston, Arkansas. Vincent's maternal grandfather had been the Chief Engineer and Designer of the Union Army’s railroad operations during the civil war. The son of a blacksmith, Vincent learned his fathers craft and was the proprietor of his own small tool repair business by age 10. When the Vincent family moved to Michigan, young Jesse witnessed firsthand the early 1900’s boom in automobile manufacturing. Having no formal engineering education beyond his years of public school, he taught himself engineering through correspondence schools, building quite a portfolio for patents and designs of business machines. Working briefly as acting engineer of the now historic Hudson Automobile Company, his skills landed him a job as an engineer for Packard Motor Company. Quickly moving through the ranks at Packard between 1912 and 1915, while still in his 30’s, Vincent became V.P. of Packard Engineering. It was here that he designed the now legendary Straight 8 and V-12 engines.
World War one briefly interrupted Vincent's auto career, but earned him newfound challenges and even greater fame. Having been commissioned as a major in The U. S. Army Signal Corps, he achieved immortality for his role in the creation of the Liberty V-12 aircraft engine, for the then Army Air Force. Many of Vincent's V-12 engines were later used in boats and set several World Speed Records at that time. Vincent supervised work on the creation of the first diesel aircraft engine, known as the D-980. This engine, in a 1931 Bellanca CH-300, set a World Record for staying aloft for nearly 85 hours.
Vincent and Packard were also instrumental in building the Rolls Royce Merlin aircraft engine during World War 2. 60,000 engines came out of Detroit, and were used to power the P-51 Mustang and UK Spitfire fighters, as well as the Hurricanes and Lancaster Bombers. Vincent was also instrumental in the first ground-to-pilot spoken radio message In 1929, where radio operations were conducted at the Packard Proving Grounds by Jesse’s brother, Charles, also an accomplished engineer.
Acting on his guiding principle that 'no one succeeds alone', Vincent guided Packard to success in automobile and aircraft engines for 33 years. His work for Packard Automotive earned him a place in the Automotive Hall of Fame. A plaque in his honor at the Packard Proving Grounds proclaims Vincent as “ America's master motor builder.”
Jesse Vincent passed in April,1962, at the age of 82.