Notable Women of Henderson County: Uva Shipman Minners

By: Dan Gibbs

Uva Shipman Minners was born in Henderson County in 1908 to a Baptist Minister but her family moved to Asheville sometime during her childhood. She graduated from Asheville High School in 1927. She married and moved to New York City in her early 20’s.

She became enamored with flying and gained her fame as a “wing walker” and parachutist. She would walkout on wings of planes and perform various acrobatics in mid-air without the use of a safety attachment. She also held the woman’s record of dropping 750 feet before she pulled her parachute cord. She got a job with the famous Howard Flying Circus and she often performed under the name Bobbie Kimmey. She also worked in a Western Union telegraph office and she started paying for flying lessons so she could become a pilot. 

Her stated ambition was to make the first solo trans-atlantic flight by a woman and in an interview with the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in December 1931, she stated that she planned on using the solo flight to Paris as a “shopping trip.” Amelia Earhart beat her to the punch of making the first solo flight across the Atlantic but Uva Shipman’s fame grew to the point in the 1930’s that she appeared in a national print campaign ad for Camel cigarettes in 1936 with Chicago Cubs baseball player Gabby Hartnett. 

She retired from her aerobatics around 1940 and after working for the Defense Department during World War II, she lived in various places around the United States before settling back in Henderson County and becoming a children’s evangelical teacher. She died in 1997 at the age of 88 and is buried in Oakdale Cemetery in Hendersonville with the epitaph “grounded”  and a WW II era biplane etched on her tombstone. 

Although Asheville claimed her as their own, Uva Shipman Minners was born in Henderson County and she retired to Henderson County and she is also buried in Henderson County. In an article that appeared in the Asheville-Citizen Times in July 1930 the headline read “Asheville Girl Plans to Fly Alone Across Ocean; Now Stunting.” Her obituary described her as a “native of Henderson County” and a “former dancer, stunt pilot, and wing walker.” It also listed her occupations as a “race car driver, inventor, and Child Evangelism teacher.”

In researching Uva Shipman Minners, I first stumbled upon her tombstone in Oakdale Cemetery about two years ago. I started researching her and an article appeared about her in a local newspaper the Mountain Xpress on February 22, 2020 entitled “The Little-known Story of Asheville’s Flying Aviatrix.” There is also an interesting article on her posted on the website.