Roscoe Benton Tanner, born in the city of Jefferson, Jackson County, Georgia, was the second of six children born to Garland Roscoe Tanner and Mary Joe Benton Tanner. He grew up with a mix of both early 20th century urban and rural experiences in that deep-south state.
The background of World War II and a childhood fascination with flying spurred him to join the Army Air Corps late in the war. Later, as a member of the Air Force National Guard, he was called to combat duty during the Korean conflict. There, he served with the 474th Fighter-Bomber wing, flying 65 combat missions. After Korea, and experiences ferrying new jet fighters to the NATO countries of Western Europe, he met Joyce Allison Trescott at Dover Air Force Base. After a brief courtship, the Yankee from upper state New York and the Lieutenant were married. Roscoe’s next station of service was Edwards Air Force Base for training at the Test Pilot School, graduating in 1955, and this opportunity further directed his involvement in the Air Force. Stations at Eglin Air Force Base in Northwestern Florida and subsequently at Moffett Field, San Jose, California, brought the space and time for Joyce to bring forth their four children. Two years in Oklahoma at Tinker Air Force Base allowed Roscoe to earn a bachelor’s degree in science in mechanical engineering. After two more years at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, he was summoned for a year in Thailand with a B-52 bombing group based at Takhli AFB. Finally, his last 3 and one-half years of service were back at Edwards Air Force Base. From an initial assignment at the Rocket Lab, he eventually secured a position with the 6512th Air Force Systems Command. Once again, he was test flying aircraft, including the KC-119, the C-130, and the (new for that time) C5-A, the largest aircraft in the world. He retired from the Air Force on the last day in February, 1971, at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and at his retirement was included the notation of his eleven citations and service medals, the last being the Air Force Commendation Medal for meritorious achievement. At the time of his discharge form the Air Force Reserves, he had accumulated over 10,000 hours of flight time in his 28-plus years of service, flying over forty aircraft of his era, including the AT-6, P-47 and the P51, the fighter series F-80 through the F-101, and the cargo aircraft previously enumerated, as well as the B-52.
For a year after his air force retirement into civilian life in Lancaster, California, he flew as a test pilot for Piper Aircraft, but continuing opportunities for such work were limited. Roscoe then made good use of his engineering degree, and began the next phase of his employment life at the United States Borax facility in Boron, California. From 1973, through his retirement in 1992, he worked as a foreman at the Pilot Plant, overseeing new projects within US Borax.
Roscoe remained a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, attending the annual get-togethers for many years. His additional hobbies included refurbishing and rebuilding classic automobiles, desert rock-hunting and lapidary, and hunting and fishing with friends and family. He could repair just about anything. He was preceded in death by his wife, Joyce Allison Trescott Tanner, in 2015, and his sisters Louise Yarborough, Barbara Dellinger, and Cheryl Tanner, and his brother, Douglas Tanner. He is survived by his youngest brother, Cecil Tanner, of Cartersville, Georgia, and many beloved nephews and nieces. His direct survivors include Thetis Allison Gamberg, of Lufkin, Texas, Diana Allison Tanner, of Quartz Hill, California, Garth Benton Tanner of Modesto, California, and Blair Morse of Newhall, California, granddaughters Candace Joy Tanner of New Albany, Indiana, Carissa Joy Tanner of Georgetown, Indiana, and Seth Benton Tanner of Kansas City, Missouri, and finally, great-granddaughters Aaliyah Christian Tanner and Calli Ryan Romine-Tanner.
In his wallet, he always kept a typewritten card of family and friend important information, and at the bottom of the card, a single quotation: “Do not delay. The golden moments fly”.
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