Time magazine called Cyrus Rowlett Smith a "big gruff Texan" and "a living legend in American aviation." The New York Times called him a "tall, big-shouldered Texan," a "kindly man of gruff exterior" and "a good listener who can make instant decisions." Perhaps one associate said it best: "If there was a national award for the model executive, he ought to get it." Smith, or C.R., as most knew him, served as the president of American Airlines for more than 30 years, and on his watch, American evolved from a small mail-carrier into the nation's largest airline. C.R. was born in Minerva, Texas, in 1899. His shiftless father abandoned the family when C.R. was nine. C.R., the oldest of seven children, dropped out of grammar school and went to work as an office boy in Amarillo.