Mary Groce of Mt. Laurel, N.J., will present a program on the life and achievements of Emory Conrad Malick, the first licensed African American pilot and Sunbury’s first aviator. The free program will be held at 7 p.m. June 20 at the Northumberland County Historical Society, 1150 N. Front St., Sunbury.
Malick was born on Dec. 29, 1881, in Seven Points, and moved to Sunbury in 1887. His father, Darius Malick, was a carpenter, and the house he built for his family still stands on Catawissa Avenue. Emory, also a carpenter, worked with his father in Harrisburg, where they installed the mahogany veneering in the dining and sleeping cars for the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Emory earned his International Pilot’s License, #105, on March 20, 1912, while attending the Curtiss School of Aviation on North Island, San Diego. That same year, he flew his biplane over Shamokin during a Labor Day celebration. Two years later, in 1914, he flew his Curtiss Pusher biplane over Rolling Green Park and over downtown Selinsgrove “to the wonderment of all!” The whole town turned out to witness the amazing spectacle.
E. C. Malick was the first pilot to fly over both Northumberland and Snyder counties.
Malick came from a mixed family. His Malick ancestors, already of mixed European and African heritage, came to Pennsylvania from Germany in the 1700s. Emory’s parents looked white, but, like his Aunt Alice Malick, Emory looked black, which might explain why these words appeared in the Sunbury Daily Item on Sept. 1, 1928: “Unsung and unheralded at the testimonial banquet tendered by the Sunbury Flying Club to Wesley L. Smith and fellow aviators last night was the man who was the first to fly a plane over this city. He was E.C. Malick, native of the city, who is now engaged in ‘barnstorming’ air tours with Philadelphia as his headquarters.
“Mr. Malick, the son of Darius Malick, of Catawissa Avenue, came to Sunbury by train to attend the dedication of the local airport but was not called up last night although he was probably the one deserving of highest honor.”
The article concluded with, “Mr. Malick is a real pioneer of the air and Sunbury is proud of her native son’s achievements and join in wishing him further success.”