Colonel William Gordon Higginbotham, Jr., USAF (Ret.) February 12, 1931 — February 18, 2015 flew west.
Known as “Higgy” to everyone who knew him, and for as long as anybody can remember, he was born in Patterson, La. to Coach “Hickey” and Mayme Higginbotham. He graduated from Baton Rouge High School where he was a Louisiana Hall of Fame football, baseball, swimming and track member. He attended the University of Southwestern Louisiana (currently University of Louisiana- Lafayette) where he played football and ran track.
Higgy answered the call and earned an USAF ROTC commission on 8 June, 1954. Higgy’s first USAF flight was 7 July, 1954 in Lakeland, Fla. He soloed on 28 July three weeks later in a PA-18 Super Cub after 16 lessons and 14.4 hours of dual instruction. After graduating in1955 from Undergraduate Pilot Training at Webb AFB in Big Spring, Tex., he went on to an exemplary career as a fighter pilot, flying the T-6, T-33 and T-28 trainers, F-86, F-105, F-100, and F-4 fighters and the L-19.
He was stationed around the world, meeting strange and exotic people. While an instructor pilot at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nev., the “Home of the Fighter Pilot,” Higgy was selected to be Right Wingman for the Thunderbirds, the prestigious USAF aerial demonstration team. With the team, he flew the F-100 “Hun” and F-105 “Thud,” and during the 1963 and 1964 airshow seasons he flew airshows in all 50 states, Canada, the Caribbean Islands, North Africa, and 12 European countries. In 1966 Higgy volunteered for combat duty and was assigned to Udorn, Thailand as a flight commander, flying the mighty McDonnell F-4 Phantom. His 240 combat missions included 100 over heavily defended North Vietnam. Higgy’s citations include five Distinguished Flying Crosses and 19 Air Medals, among numerous others. Other assignments included a tour in the United Kingdom (RAF Bentwaters) as an F-4 squadron operations officer and later, squadron commander, Wing Director of Operations at Aviano AB, Italy, and Assistant Director of Operations of the Tactical Air Warfare Center (TAWC) at Eglin AFB, Fla.
Col. Higginbotham retired from the USAF in 1978, then served 24 years on the Lafayette, La. airport commission. A longtime resident of Niceville, Fla., he is survived by his sister, Ann Macfee, as well as a very close family of friends, fighter pilots, and various other miscreants. Higgy was a longtime and proud member of the Command Bar Stool Association (CBSA), the Ft. Walton Beach (VPS) QB hangar, and the Super Sabre Society. Although he had no time for political correctness, he was always quick with a smile and a tasteless joke. Higgy was a true friend, a brother, and Good Fellow to all those around him. We will miss him, but our lives were enriched because we knew him!
At his request, in lieu of flowers he said to buy a pretty girl a drink. Because that’s what Higgy would do! Higgy had a tremendous respect for his brethren who could tap dance!