Richmond Viall

Richmond Viall (1896-1973) was born in Providence on June 26, 1896; his father was second-in-command at Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing Company when it was a global force in the machine tools business. He attended Williams College, but left in 1917 to join the British forces in Canada. He joined the Royal Canadian Flying Corps as an Aviation Cadet. After initial training in Canada he sailed for England in February 1918, and was eventually assigned to 46 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. He flew in combat until the end of the war, being credited with one aerial victory.

On his return, he joined Brown & Sharpe, in which his father had played such a prominent role. He eventually became vice-president, secretary, and director of that firm until he left in 1946 to become chairman of the board of Marshall & Williams Corporation, manufacturers of textile machinery, a position he held until 1965.

He joined the 103rd Field Artillery, RI National Guard in February, 1925, serving until 1935. In September of 1930 he was appointed chairman of the Providence committee of the American Engineering Council, established to help determine ideal airport locations, with particular emphasis on surfaces and drainage. Richmond Viall was close to the Chafee family and had known John Chafee since he was a baby. Viall guided Chafee’s political campaigns for 15 years, through his terms as Governor and as US Senator. Viall was a prominent Republican from a long-established family who had served on numerous Boards of Directors, such as Plantations Bank of Rhode Island, Providence Washington Insurance Company, Providence National Bank and Peoples Savings Bank. His community involvement was also legendary.

When Viall died in 1973 at the age of 77, his obituary described him as “a manufacturing executive and civic leader long active in the affairs of the United Way, RI School of Design and local financial circles.”

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