Along West Eighth Street on the campus of Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas, was a meeting of pioneers. Former members of the Flying Queens, Wayland’s women’s basketball team since 1948, were coming to celebrate the grand opening of the Flying Queens Museum. Welcoming them was a symbol of all those who believed in them: a Beechcraft Baron.
Claude Hutcherson owned a charter company in Plainview and had a fleet of Bonanzas and Barons. He became the team sponsor, naming them Hutcherson’s Flying Queens and flying them in style to every away-game. Their coach, Harley Redin, a Marine Corps bomber pilot in WWII, often flew one of the planes.
Linda Pickens was six years old when her brother told her if she excelled at basketball, she could get a college scholarship and escape the poverty and abuse she suffered at home. She held onto that dream, becoming a Flying Queen, 1966-1969.
The Flying Queens accomplished something no other college basketball team has, men or women. Their record winning streak still stands: 131 consecutive games and four national championships. Some of these women scored full scholarships and earned post-graduate degrees. Many went on to give back, as doctors, business leaders, teachers, coaches. They stood tall and proud, determined to make a way for women’s sports. All they needed was a chance.
After Hutcherson’s Flying Queens were enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019, Flying Queens Foundation President, Dr. Linda Pickens-Price, shared her vision: an on-campus museum honoring the history of these trailblazing women.
On February 18, 2023, Wayland President, Dr. Bobby Hall, joined Dr. Price in opening the museum to the public for the first time. Flying Queens who played as far back as the 1950’s descended on Plainview from across the country. Mayor Charles Starnes burst with pride as darn near the whole city filled the building and overflowed out the doors. Among them was Debby Rihn-Harvey. Debby stands far above her competition as a nine-time national champion and winner of more medals in world aerobatic contests than any other person, male or female.
About six months ago, Dr. Price asked us if we knew where she could get an airplane donated to their museum project, which she envisioned sitting atop a pedestal at the entrance. We knew just the person.
“You want my Baron?” Debby asked. Yes. It hadn’t flown in a while, and she had no immediate plans to restore it. Once she heard their story, she was all-in. She prepped her beloved airplane for the nine-hour drive, had it repainted with a Flying Queens logo, and hoisted lovingly onto the pedestal, where it looks like it’s taking off for a game.
If you’re out that way, don’t cheat yourself out of a visit, where the airplane of a legend invites you to learn more about the legacies of women who were pioneers on the courts and in the air.