A GREAT HONOR by Alan S. Boyd


My Life Shaping 20th Century Transportation
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A debut memoir examines a life in motion: planes, trains, and automobiles.

In this work, Boyd looks back at a remarkable life dedicated to service and innovation. The author is perhaps best known for his appointment as the first secretary of the newly formed Department of Transportation during the Johnson administration. That achievement alone makes his memoir noteworthy, considering his presence at Cabinet meetings during that turbulent time. But there is much more to tell before and after that watershed moment. As with many of the members of his generation, the Pearl Harbor attack altered the course of his life. The most riveting chapters focus on his military service as a pilot during World War II and as a flight instructor during the Korean War. Even before Boyd reports for aviation training, there are harrowing experiences to narrate, encapsulated in this revealing passage: “Heading for Muskogee, I thought about my journey to become a cadet. I’d been struck by lightning, hunted as a deserter, hospitalized with pleurisy, and hit by a hurricane. I figured things couldn’t get worse.” The governmental and corporate intrigue that follows his military career may not be as thrilling as war stories, but he successfully maintains readers’ interest by disclosing the inner workings of various parts of the transportation sector. While he identifies as a “liberal Democrat” and sustains a strong belief in government as an agent of positive change, he also retains a healthy skepticism when colleagues fail to address technological developments adequately. As he succinctly writes: “I did not view the role of government regulation as rigid and immutable, but rather as one that should adjust to the changing demands of the transportation industry.” Overall, the text is suffused with impressive details as well as a cheerful sense of wonder and gratitude despite some challenging moments and professional disappointments. In the epilogue, he lists the core values that he shared with Flavil, his wife of 64 years. Boyd asserts that the true test of a relationship is hanging wallpaper together, a test that he and Flavil clearly passed. Thus, this memoir also serves as a testament to their steady partnership.

An enjoyable book from start to finish, filled with historical events and personal reflections.

Pub Date: Aug. 6th, 2016
Page count: 246pp
Publisher: Artisan Island Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2017


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