Irven Granger McDaniel (1923–1978)

Irven Granger McDaniel was a World War II bomber pilot and prisoner of war (POW) who, after returning home, joined his father’s architecture firm and later formed his own, designing a number of noteworthy buildings in Hot Springs (Garland County).

Irven Granger McDaniel was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 24, 1923, one of four children of architect Irven Donald McDaniel and Camille Lewis McDaniel. McDaniel’s father had established a practice in Hot Springs by 1930, and McDaniel was a student at Hot Springs High School and taking flying lessons by the time he was seventeen years old.

As Europe became embroiled in World War II, McDaniel went to Canada and enlisted in the Royal Air Force on July 4, 1941, months before the United States entered the conflict. He was in England by January 1942 and flew several bombing missions as a co-pilot. On August 18, 1942, he took off on his first mission as pilot of a Stirling bomber, flying against the German submarine pens at the coastal port of Flensburg. The plane sustained damage during the raid that led McDaniel to ditch the bomber in the North Sea, escaping the wreckage with two of his crew members. After several days in an open life raft, a Danish fishing boat picked the men up, and they were later taken aboard a German patrol boat, becoming prisoners of war.

McDaniel was imprisoned at Stalag Luft III in Sagan, now in Poland, where he joined other U.S. prisoners in part of the prison they dubbed “Little America.” The young prisoner wrote home to his mother, telling her that he intended to spend his time at the camp learning architecture. Among the other POWs was a former architecture professor from the University of Warsaw and some British architects, so he was able to achieve what might have seemed an unlikely pursuit and received training that would serve him well after the war.

Stalag Luft III would eventually see the largest mass escape of Allied prisoners in the war, and McDaniel was employed as a forger in ongoing escape attempts, creating fake identification papers. He himself escaped several times, and his daughter later said his periods of solitary confinement led to the nickname “Cooler King”—making him the model for the Steve McQueen character in the 1963 film The Great Escape. McDaniel finally made a successful escape in 1943, making his way to Russian lines and eventually linking up with American forces. Some seventy-six other Stalag Luft III prisoners escaped in March 1944, and fifty were executed after being captured.

Returning to Hot Springs, McDaniel continued his architectural tutelage working in his father’s firm, which became McDaniel and McDaniel, Architects, in 1951. He practiced as I. Granger McDaniel, Architect, after his father’s death in 1960. He was active in Hot Springs affairs, being a founding member of the Hot Springs Community Players, a member of the board of the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Garland County Planning Commission. He also served as a member of the Arkansas State Board of Architects from 1968 to 1973.

Several Hot Springs buildings that McDaniel designed are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Jack Tar Hotel and Bathhouse (listed February 21, 2006), and the First United Methodist Church Education Building (listed June 7, 2016). He likely designed or contributed to the design of the Cleveland Arms Apartments (listed August 2, 2018) and Perry Plaza Apartments (listed February 11, 2004) in Hot Springs and the Billings-Cole House in Malvern (Hot Spring County) (listed May 27, 2015).

McDaniel married Ann Stell, and the couple had three children. He opened an additional office in Boca Raton, Florida, in 1970 and was living there when he died on May 7, 1978.

For additional information:
Bright, Beth. “Cooler King.” Hot Springs Sentinel-Record, February 9, 2014. Online at (accessed January 31, 2019).

———. “Hot Springs Man’s Legacy Lives.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 16, 2014, p. 7B.

Clark, Albert P. 33 Months as a POW in Stalag Luft III. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2004.

Deane, Ernie. “Architect Stages One-Man ‘Show.’” Arkansas Gazette, November 12, 1961, p. 5E.

Gane, John F., ed. American Architects Director. 3rd ed. New York: R.R. Bowker Co., 1970.

“I. G. McDaniel, Architect, Dies at 55.” Arkansas Gazette, May 9, 1978, p. 6A.

“Irven D. McDaniel Materials.” Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas. Finding aid online at (accessed January 31, 2019).

“Pilot Officer Irven Granger McDaniel 112297 RAF VR Pi.” No. 218 (Gold Coast) Squadron 1936–1945. (accessed January 31, 2019).

Mark K. Christ
Little Rock, Arkansas


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