Marguerite Shepherd: Assistant to “Ace of Aces” Eddie Rickenbacker

Marguerite “Sheppy” Shepherd (1894-1983) was the longtime personal assistant to ‘Ace of Aces’ Eddie Rickenbacker (1890-1973), a World War I fighter pilot, race car driver, automotive designer, government consultant in military matters, air transport pioneer, and longtime head of Eastern Air Lines.

Rickenbacker featured on the cover of Knights Templar magazine four years after his death in 1973.
Box 2, Marguerite Shepherd papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Ms. Shepherd was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and, in 1923, became Rickenbacker’s secretary at the Rickenbacker Motor Car Company in Detroit, Michigan. In later years, she became his executive secretary at Cadillac Motor Company, Fokker Aircraft Company, American Airways, and Eastern Air Lines. Shepherd was for many years a member of the Seraphic Secretaries of America and the Women’s Traffic Club of Greater New York.

Sheppy Shepherd (left) with Amelia Earhart at the Pittsburgh airport en route to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 500 Mile Race, May 29, 1935.
Box 2, Marguerite Shepherd papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Group of newspapermen, broadcasters, and others en route to Indianapolis Motor Speedway 500 Mile Race, May 29, 1935. Amelia Earhart just below Dick Merrill, pilot. Sheppy Shepherd is third from right in front row.
Box 2, Marguerite Shepherd papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

By the time Ms. Shepherd became Rickenbacker’s secretary, he was already had a well-established reputation as daredevil par none, but he was also on his way to going bankrupt. He had started the Rickenbacker Motor Company in 1920, selling technologically advanced cars incorporating innovations from auto racing. Probably due to bad publicity from other car manufacturers who feared the competition for their inventory of two-wheel braking autos, the company had trouble selling its cars and eventually went bankrupt in 1927. Rickenbacker went into massive debt but was determined to pay back the $250,000 he owed, despite personally going bankrupt. Eventually, all vehicles manufactured in the U.S. incorporated his four-wheel braking.

Rickenbacker’s career did not want for adventure with at least two near death mishaps, the bold purchase of Eastern Airlines for $3.5 million in 1938 (also $60M in today’s dollars), and a World-War II era fact-finding trip into Russia for the U.S. War Department, and more. Ms. Shepherd was with him during the ups and the downs of his career.

Eddie Rickenbacker with wife Adelaide and sons William and David taken at LaGuardia Airport, December 1942.
Box 1, Marguerite Shepherd papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Shepherd’s papers contain Rickenbacker’s business correspondence; photographs of Shepherd, Rickenbacker, Eastern Air Lines events and personnel, and tributes to Rickenbacker; and programs, speeches, newspaper clippings, and other printed material about Eastern Air Lines. There are also books and magazines by and about Rickenbacker and scripts for radio interviews with Shepherd regarding her secretarial career and her membership in the Seraphic Secretaries of America.

Post submitted by AHC’s Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener.

#alwaysarchiving

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