Carlene Roberts Lawrence, First Woman to Join Ranks of Airline Industry Executives, Dies at 105

By Anna Breuer on 4 November 2018
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Carlene Roberts Lawrence, who became the first woman to hold an executive-level position in the airline industry after having worked her way up from a $150-a-month secretarial position, died on Monday at the age of 105.

Ms. Lawrence, then Carlene Roberts, began her career in the airline industry when she joined American Airlines in Chicago as a secretary. When American Airlines shifted its headquarters from Chicago to New York in 1939, shortly after the opening of LaGuardia Airport, she was tasked with managing the relocation of 700 employees and their families from Chicago to New York.

When the airline opened an office in Washington, D.C., in 1942, it was Ms. Roberts who was put in charge, at a salary of $300 per month. She quickly became “an accomplished lobbyist for the airline’s projects,” according to a Time magazine article at the time. She was appointed an assistant vice president of the airline in 1946 and, in July 1951, was promoted to vice president and a raise to $25,000 per year, thereby becoming the first woman in the industry to hold a position of this level.

In 1954, she resigned from the airline in order to marry Lothair Teetor, who was an assistant secretary of commerce in the Eisenhower Administration. Mr. Teetor died in 1962 and, in 1968, Ms. Roberts married Justin B. Lawrence, who had served as the army’s chief publications officer in Europe during the Second World War. Mr. Lawrence, who ran his own PR firm, died in 1987.

Ms. Lawrence was born in 1913 in Water Valley, Kentucky, and moved to Oklahoma with her mother in 1915. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma in 1934, she worked as a secretary at the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce, putting her ambition of wanting to become an actress aside due to the Depression.

No cause of death was given.

She is survived by several step-grandchildren.

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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