It was Henry Pringle’s generous donation of 410 acres across from Silver Lake Estates in 1940 that got thoughts of a modern Leesburg airport off the ground. In 2003, the city honored him by renaming it Leesburg Regional Airport at Henry Pringle Field.

A story in The Leesburg Commercial on July 5, 1940, stated, “An absolutely free gift, the Silver Lake Estates through Henry Pringle, offered the board of commissioners of Lake County at their meeting Monday, 400 acres or more of land with lake frontage on Lake Harris, as the site for the proposed county airport.”

Pringle had learned that a group was trying to build a county airport in Tavares, so he offered the acreage so the facility could be built in Leesburg. According to the family, Pringle realized his gift, which provided land for about 90 percent of the airport, was a gift of growth for both Leesburg and Lake County.

There had already been an airport in Leesburg and at several locations around the county. But they weren’t big enough to handle large planes, especially the bombers that flew the Florida skies while pilots trained for World War II. The need for military flight training figured predominantly in Leesburg getting its airport off the ground.

After the base was used to train pilots, the barracks on the north side of the road were turned into a prisoner of war camp. The site is now Lake-Sumter State College. The airport was deactivated in 1947. It was declared surplus and deeded to the city on March 23, 1948.