Louis Philip “Phil” Billard

1891 - 1918

           

 

Phil Billard in 1912

Bobbi Billard collection

 

1st Lt. Louis Philip Billard

Bobbi Billard collection

 

Phil Billard was born April 27, 1891 in Topeka, Kansas, the youngest of three sons born to Julius Beniot “Jules” Billard (1846-1935) and his wife, Hermance Palmyre (Laurent) Billard (1850-1913).  Phil Billard attended the Topeka Business College before running the family owned Central Mills and Elevator Company in Topeka.

On November 14, 1914, Billard entered the automobile races being promoted by the brother team of race promoters: Richard Edward Scneder (1889-1964), Lisle Harrison Scneder (1893-1982) and Leslie Martin Scneder (1893-1972) from Denison, Kansas on the ½ mile dirt oval racetrack on the Kansas Free Fairgrounds in Topeka.  Lisle Scneder had been the successful promoter of some motorcycle races in the past but this was the brothers’ first venture into promoting automobile racing.  When the 2:30 p.m. race time rolled around, there were only 600 spectators in the grandstand and two automobiles in the pit area.  It seems that, while the Scneder Brothers had advertised the appearance of several prominent area auto race drivers, they had failed to secure their appearance, or even obtain their permission to advertise that they would be competing.  The sparse crowd was patient and even a little amused at the promoters’ predicament, even joshing with them some for the first two hours of the ensuing delay but then they began to turn on the hapless promoters until the brothers began to wear a worried look, wondering how it might feel to be mobbed.

The only two drivers ready to race were Phil Billard in his 1910 American Speedwell and Henry Grady Montgomery (1889-1964) in his little green Paige, so the promoters put out a plea for anyone wishing to participate to quickly come down from the grandstands or show up at the racetrack.  At 4:35 p.m. seven automobiles were entered although Montgomery’s Paige was also out of commission after a mishap rounding a curve on the racetrack during “hot laps”.  Seven auto races had been advertised but now four plus one motorcycle race, would be run.  The promoters contended that they were ready to run the complete advertised program but darkness was now, going to prevent that.

 

3-mile Free-for-All race – Time:  4:35.0

Place

Driver

Automobile

1

Phil Billard

1910 American Speedwell

2

Samuel Edward “Sam” Lux, Jr.

1913 Ford

3

Al Koepke*

1909 Thomas

4

Earl Sparling

American

 

 

 

First 3-mile heat race for the Topeka Championship – Time:  4:55.0

Place

Driver

Automobile

1

Phil Billard

1910 American Speedwell

2

Samuel Edward “Sam” Lux, Jr.

1913 Ford

3

Al Koepke*

1909 Thomas

4

Earl Sparling

American

 

 

 

Second 3-mile heat race for the Topeka Championship – Time:  4:45.0

Place

Driver

Automobile

1

Phil Billard

1910 American Speedwell

2

C. T. Mathews

Regal

3

Robert Tutt Billard**

Stutz

4

Earl Sparling

American

 

 

 

5-mile Free-for-All for the Kansas Championship – Time:  7:45.0

Place

Driver

Automobile

1

Phil Billard

1910 American Speedwell

2

Al Koepke*

1909 Thomas

3

C. T. Mathews

Regal

4

Robert Tutt Billard**

Stutz

 

 

 

2-mile motorcycle race – Time:  3:02.0

Place

Rider

Motorcycle

1

Major M. Anderson

Harley-Davidson

2

Charles John Heise

Sears

3

Vernon R. Eagon

Harley-Davidson

 

First Lieutenant Louis Philip Billard was a test pilot during World War I and was killed in an airplane crash while testing a DeHaviland 4 in a dive maneuver at the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center in Issoudun, France on July 24, 1918.  The airplane did not respond to controls in the dive.  Although he was originally buried at the Issoudun Air Field, his remains were exhumed and transferred to a grave in the St. Mihiel American Cemetery.  His remains were subsequently exhumed again in 1924, at the request of his father, and cremated.  The ashes were then scattered by one of his brothers in a park in Moulins, Auvergne, France on what would have been Phil’s 33rd birthday, 27 April, 1924.  Moulins is close to the Billard family ancestral home town of Saint-Leon, Auvergne. His name is also included on the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center Memorial monument at Issoudun Training Field, Issoudun, France.  There is also a memorial for him at the Topeka Cemetery in Topeka, Kansas.  Billard had joined the newly formed Kansas National Guard in 1916 and had reached the rank of captain with that organization.  He was inducted into Kansas National Guard Hall of Fame in 2003.  The Billard Airport in Topeka was named for him as was the Philip Billard V.F.W. Post #1650 in Topeka.

If you know anything more about Phil Billard’s participation in auto racing, please contact Bob Lawrence at: sprintguy @ cox.net

 

 

 

Autograph signed in 1917

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Albert Jouquin “Al” Koepke’s name appears as “August Kopke” for an unknown reason in the published race results.  Koepke had entered these races a few days before but he was late arriving at the fairgrounds on race day.

 

** Robert Tutt Billard (1884-1961) was a brother to Phil Billard.