Wade, Franklin Alton (1903–1978)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: August 1, 1995

Franklin Alton (Al) Wade, geologist and explorer, was born in Akron, Ohio, on February 5, 1903. He attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he received a B.S. degree in 1925 and a master's degree in chemistry in 1926. In 1933 he made his first trip to Antarctica with Adm. Richard Byrd and accompanied him to the South Pole. Afterward, Wade entered Johns Hopkins University, where he completed his doctorate in geology in 1937. He married Sarah Jane Richards in 1938. He was then named chief scientist for Byrd's 1939–40 expedition, during which he suffered severe frostbite and narrowly missed falling into a crevasse. He was awarded two special congressional medals in recognition of his contributions in Antarctic exploration. After the United States entered World War II, Wade served as a major in the army air corps and as base commander of the Greenland Ice Cap Detachment in 1943–44. During the Korean War he served as operations-analysis officer with the Far East Air Forces, for which he received the Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 1952. In 1954 Wade moved to Lubbock, Texas, where he joined the faculty of Texas Tech as head of the geology department, a position he held until 1964. From 1954 until his retirement from teaching in 1973, he served as Horn Professor of Geosciences, during which time he conducted several more geological surveys of Antarctica. He promoted these field trips to area audiences through films and lectures; his last Antarctic expedition was in 1969. After 1973 he was a research associate at the Museum of Texas Tech University. At the time of his death Wade was working on the preparation of additional geological maps of Antarctica. He was a member and president of the American Polar Society. In Lubbock he was a member and vestryman of St. Paul's Episcopal Church. He died at Methodist Hospital in Lubbock on October 1, 1978, after a heart attack, and was buried at Resthaven Memorial park. Two weeks later, on October 14, Congressman George H. Mahon addressed to the United States House of Representatives a tribute to Wade in praise of his scientific contributions, his "enthusiasm for life, his Christian dedication and his youthful spirit." A 16,000-foot high mountain in Antarctica is named for Wade. His vast collection of Antarctic data, artifacts, and souvenirs is housed in the Museum of Texas Tech.

Dallas Times Herald, October 3, 1978. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, October 2, 1978.


  • Education
  • Educators
  • Sciences, Agriculture, and Engineering
  • Exploration
  • Explorers (American)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

H. Allen Anderson, “Wade, Franklin Alton,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 27, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/wade-franklin-alton.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995