Camp Randall 100: Charles Lindbergh

Photo college of former UW-Madison student and aviator Charles Lindbergh
Photo college of former UW-Madison student and aviator Charles Lindbergh

The Camp Randall 100 honors a prestigious group of 100 people who shaped the first century of Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin Athletics will reveal a new honoree every day from May 24 until the Badgers’ 2017 opening game on Sept. 1 against Utah State.


“My greatest regret is that this tour … doesn’t allow me to visit here in Madison for a longer time. Madison certainly was 100 percent. I appreciate very greatly what the people here have done for me.”

— Charles Lindbergh


Photo of Charles Lindbergh wearing a helmet with googles and sitting in the cockpit of a airplane
Charles Lindbergh

Ten years after Camp Randall Stadium was built, it hosted perhaps the most famous person in the world, a history-maker and former UW-Madison student. His return to Madison was greeted by the closing of area stores as well as the state Capitol, a parade of nearly 100 cars with a police motorcycle escort down State Street and a crowd of approximately 40,000 people at the relatively new stadium.

The date was Aug. 22, 1927, and the man was Charles Lindbergh.

Just three months earlier, Lindbergh had become the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. He received international acclaim and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Calvin Coolidge.

Lindbergh’s interest in aviation was born as a student at UW-Madison. While living with a friend, Delos Dudley, on Regent Street he built the first propeller-driven craft he would ever pilot: an ice boat, made with a cast-off airplane parts. An engineering student, Lindbergh dropped out of UW in 1922 without receiving his degree to pursue his passion, travelling to Lincoln, Nebraska, the home of the Nebraska Aircraft Association.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, He rose quickly, but was still an unknown when he cajoled businessmen in St. Louis to fund the construction of a plane designed to tackle the Atlantic. The Spirit of St. Louis was born.

On May 20 and 21, 1927, Lindbergh flew from New York City to Paris, nonstop, becoming the first person to complete a solo transatlantic flight. A star was born.

On the day he returned to Madison, Lindbergh, in the Spirit of St. Louis, circled the Capitol dome three times. He then flew over Camp Randall at a height of 200 feet, then west a few blocks, buzzing the homes of friends in University Heights. He landed at Pennco Field, which today is the site of South Towne Mall, and was ushered to Camp Randall.

There, according to the State Journal, UW President (Glenn) Frank predicted that Lindbergh’s flight would end war. ‘A world in which New York and Paris are only 33 1/2 hours apart is only a neighborhood, and in such an intimate neighborhood we dare not tolerate narrow nationalism and swashbuckling jingoisms.’

Later that day, Lindbergh dedicated the Memorial Union by laying a wreath at its cornerstone. As he was leaving Madison, he told reporters, “My greatest regret is that this tour … doesn’t allow me to visit here in Madison for a longer time.

“Madison certainly was 100 percent. I appreciate very greatly what the people here have done for me.”

Lindbergh returned to Madison again a year later to accept an honorary degree from UW, completing yet another journey.

Related Article: Fly Away Home | UW-Madison dropout Charles Lindbergh returned in 1927 to a hero’s welcome (Wisconsin State Journal, 2002)

Thin Photo college of former UW-Madison student and aviator Charles Lindbergh