Richard T. "Dick" Sykes
Obituary - Published in the Los Angeles Times on August 6, 2008
Richard T. "Dick" Sykes, WW II fighter pilot and air racing enthusiast who was an active defense attorney for more than 50 years died peacefully in his Toluca Lake home on August 2 following a farewell performance by the swingtown band he produced. His great passions were aviation, law, music and family. He was 84 years old.
Growing up in Beverly Hills in the 1940s, Sykes was passionate about airplanes and aviation. At the age of 18 he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and began his training as a fighter pilot. He flew P-38 fighter planes in 50 combat missions over Europe from June to December 1944.
On his final mission he was shot down over German-controlled territory and declared MIA. With the help of Hungarian farmers he was able to evade capture and eventually was safely reunited with US forces.
In 1965, Sykes and a fellow WWII fighter pilot founded the Condor Squadron, a non-profit public service organization based at the Van Nuys Airport. The Condor Squadron assisted in numerous search and rescue efforts to locate downed aircraft in Central and Southern California.
Under Sykes's leadership, the group grew to over a dozen WWII era aircraft and performed mock air battles at air shows, Memorial Day flyovers and held other public and private aviation related activities. Sykes was also an avid air racer in the 1970's and 1980's and regularly raced in the AT-6 class at the National Air Races in Reno, Nevada. His racing career included a national championship in 1983. He also ended one race with an emergency landing caused by a collision with an eagle. In spite of the damage to the aircraft, he was able to land safely.
For over 50 years Sykes, who received his law degree from George Washington University School of Law, maintained a law practice in the San Fernando Valley specializing in criminal defense. He was a noted and very active trial attorney and appeared with regularity in LA County and other courtrooms throughout Southern California.
During the last 10 years, Sykes culminated his lifelong passion for music of the 40's and 50's by forming a 14-piece band. Under Sykes, the "14 Gentlemen from Swingtown" produced 2 CDs and held several concerts playing big band swing music.
He is survived by his wife of 51 years, JoAnn; children Edmund, Jeannie, Carol, Gene, Richard, John, Barbara and Mary; sixteen grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
Donations in memory of Sykes can be sent to the Condor Squadron at 7800 Havenhurst Ave., Van Nuys, CA 91406 and to Kids International Foundation, 725 N. Avon St., Burbank, CA 91505.
Memorial services will be held on Thursday, August 7, at 11:00 a.m., at Valhalla Memorial Park, 10621 Victory Blvd. in North Hollywood. A reception will follow at the Sykes family home in Toluca Lake.