Kate and Ernest Craddock at their 50th wedding anniversary in 1950. The Craddocks owned a Texaco station at the corner of Main and Washington streets in downtown Burnet where the Herman Brown Free Library now stands. Courtesy photo
About 2,000 people and 80 aircraft turned out Aug. 23, 1961, at the Burnet airport to honor a 78-year-old woman by dedicating the facility in her name. Kate Craddock Field was named for Katie Lee “Kate” Shuford Craddock, who was the first woman commissioner on the Burnet City Commission (before it was the Burnet City Council) and instrumental in establishing the airport.
Craddock was born southeast of Burnet in 1883. The oldest of Margaret and Edward Shuford’s eight children, her formal education concluded in the eighth grade, but she never stopped learning.
Craddock, who married Ernest Craddock in 1900, didn’t live the typical woman’s life of her era. Her husband owned and operated a Texaco station at the corner of Main and Washington in Burnet, where the Herman Brown Free Library is currently located. The couple also raised five children: four boys and one girl.
Along with caring for a growing family in early 20th century Burnet, Kate Craddock also pursued a number of other interests. She was a big supporter of the community and an active member of then-First Methodist Church in Burnet. She was also a member of the Burnet Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star 425, an organization affiliated with the Masonic Lodge.
She also took an interest in politics: local, state, and national. Over the course of her lifetime, Craddock attended political rallies for 64 different campaigns. She was even a member of the Ladies for Lyndon, an organization supporting President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 re-election bid. Craddock was described as a “dynamic leader” in the organization.
Craddock was the first woman to become a director of the Burnet Chamber of Commerce, a position she held for two terms. She was elected to the Burnet City Commission, which was made up of two commissioners and a mayor, in 1958. She served on the commission until April 1961.
Craddock became a strong advocate for a local airport and was on the commission when it purchased property for the facility and funded its runway. The commission eventually voted to name the airport in Craddock’s honor for her many accomplishments and efforts toward the improvement of the city.
A full-page advertisement on April 20, 1961, in the local paper announced the dedication ceremony for three days later.
“Mrs. Craddock is endeared to the citizens of Burnet, both young and old, for her untiring service in behalf of our community,” the announcement stated. “Congratulations to a sweet, charming and deserving ‘Lady of Burnet.’”
During the ceremony, then-Mayor Robert P. Miller and former Mayor Dr. Joe A. Sheppard officially dedicated the airport as Kate Craddock Field. In her own remarks, Craddock thanked the community for the support and the honor.
“I hope the airport serves the present and future needs in a progressive world,” she said. “I shall always be grateful to you for such an honor. Again, I thank you, and God bless you all.”
Then-Vice President Johnson sent a letter to Craddock apologizing that he couldn’t attend the ceremony and describing the airport dedication in her honor as a “richly deserved tribute to you.”
On April 14, 1965, the Texas House of Representatives honored Craddock with a House resolution recognizing her “unselfish devotion in her life of service to family, friends and community.” Then-U.S. Congressman J.J. “Jake” Pickle had the state resolution entered into the Congressional Record. In his statement to Congress, Pickle praised Craddock.
“This wonderful woman is widely loved and admired for her many accomplishments and her unselfish community service,” he stated.
Burnet Municipal Airport-Kate Craddock Field continues to thrive. According to the most recent Texas Department of Transportation figures, the airport has an estimated $7 million economic impact on the Burnet area, supporting around 38 jobs with roughly $2 million in salaries, wages, and benefits.
The airport continues to serve as a portal to Burnet and the Highland Lakes for travelers, business people, and visitors. The Highland Lakes Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force, which operates on Kate Craddock Field, holds an annual air show at the facility that draws thousands of spectators each year. The facility houses a museum both indoors and out, paying tribute to aviators over the ages.