Maj Gen William Lyon, USAF [Ret]
March 9, 1923 - May 22, 2020
A LIFE OF ACHIEVEMENT
General William Lyon, without question, led an achievement-filled life. Even more impressive is the fact General Lyon’s many accomplishments were wide ranging, as he made his mark as a successful businessman, a decorated member of the military and an active supporter of the community.
More than 60 years ago, William Lyon started building homes for returning military personnel and others attracted to the Golden State. This modest effort evolved to become William Lyon Homes, Inc., which went on to become one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, constructing more than 75,000 new residences in in the western US.
General Lyon’s business success wasn’t limited to homebuilding. During the 1980s, General Lyon established a multifamily real estate company to further diversify his real estate holdings which led to the acquisition, development and management of over 10,000 apartment units. In 1981, he and a partner purchased AirCal, a regional air carrier based in Newport Beach, California. General Lyon served as their Chairman & CEO until 1987 when he merged AirCal with American Airlines. His love of flying then led him to purchase Martin Aviation, a fixed based operator at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, as well to establish Lyon Air Museum.
William Lyon generously shared his business expertise by serving on the boards of a number of companies and was a retired director of American Airlines.
During General Lyon’s distinguished military career of more than 35 years, he flew combat missions in Korea, as well as several assignments in Europe, the Pacific, and North Africa during World War II. General Lyon received numerous awards and decorations, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal (with three oak clusters), and the Presidential Unit Citation.
General Lyon’s military contributions further extended to serving as Chief of the Air Force Reserve from 1975 to 1979. In this position, he was responsible for managing a $700,000,000 budget as well as the activities of some 53,000 Air Force reservists.
William Lyon’s military affiliations included his service as board chairman of the United States Air Force Academy Research and Development Institution, chairman (and later chairman emeritus) and director of the USAF Falcon Foundation, as well as serving as a member of the Air Force Academy Foundation.
In addition, General Lyon served as chairman of the American Air Museum in Britain.
William Lyon has always been an active supporter of community organizations. After 30 years of service, he retired as a director on the Segerstrom Center For The Arts Board, having been a former chairman. General Lyon was the founding chairman of the Orangewood Children’s Foundation, and served as a chairman of Boy Scouts of America, Orange County Council. Additionally, he served as board chairman of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society of The United Way.
General Lyon attended USC in the 1940s and later served as a Lifetime Trustee. Additionally, he served on the board of USC Marshall School of Business and as a member of the President’s Cabinet of Chapman University.
Given his long history of achievement, William Lyon has deservedly received numerous honors, including: the United States Air Force Academy Distinguished Service Award (November 2005); Ernst & Young’s National Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Real Estate category, November 2005); Operation Smile’s Corporate Humanitarian Award (October 2005); USC Marshall School of Business Leadership Award (September 2005); Distinguished Public Service Award presented by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (May 2005); Chapman University’s Presidential Medal in Business and Entrepreneurship Award (2004); and, Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Southern California (May 2002).