Side A: Raised in an Ohio orphanage, Warren G. Grimes (1898-1975) ran away after finishing the ninth grade and at age 16 went to work for the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. He later became a partner in an electrical business where he was instrumental in designing and developing the first lights for the Ford Tri-Motor airplane. In 1930 Grimes moved to Urbana and founded a small lighting fixture plant, Grimes Manufacturing. The inventor of the familiar red, green, and white navigation lights found on the wing tips and tails of aircraft, Grimes, known as the “Father of the Aircraft Lighting Industry,” also developed other aircraft fixtures, including landing, instrumental, and interior lights. Every American-made airplane flown during World War II was equipped with Grimes lights. Grimes served as mayor of Urbana and chairman of the State of Ohio Aviation Board.
Side B: Warren G. Grimes bought this parcel of land in the late 1930s to build a home on the east side and an airport on the west side. Opening ceremonies were held on August 8, 1943 when Grimes presented Grimes Field, consisting of one hanger and a small office building, to the city of Urbana. In 1961 the main runway was paved and lengthened to 3,200 feet. The Grimes Company used the airport extensively to test Grimes lights for aircraft, but the airport also offered charter service to area industries, people in distress, instruction, and certified federally approved Aircraft and Engine service. Grimes Field was a center for civilian flying and played an integral role in making Urbana one of the most air-minded communities in the country and the model for other cities planning municipal airports. In 2001 the runway was relocated and lengthened to 4,400 feet.
Sponsors: Honeywell Lighting and Electronics, Champaign County Bicentennial Historical Marker Committee, and The Ohio Historical Society