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History of Tampa: Dale Mabry & his namesake Highway

What Is Dale Mabry Highway?

It's fair to say most, if not all, Tampa residents have traveled along the widely accessible Dale Mabry Highway. Also referred to as State Road 597, or State Road 573, this north-south 22.644 mile long highway will take you through two counties, Hillsborough and Pasco. In fact, Dale Mabry is the longest street in Tampa. Head south and you will dead end into MacDill Air Force Base, home of the United States Central Command. Travel north and it will spit you out at U.S. Route 41 (US 41) in Land O' Lakes. Despite the thought that typically comes to mind upon hearing the term "highway", Dale Mabry is only 3 lanes, for most of it's length. Furthermore, unlike some sky-high freeways in Tampa, such as 275, I75, I4, & the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, Dale Mabry is fairly ground level for the majority of it's span.

Drew Field, Tampa International, and MacDill AirForce Base

In 1943, Dale Mabry Highway was constructed to connect current day MacDill Air Force Base to what was then Drew Field. Drew Field was a United States Army Air Force Base in Tampa that opened in 1928. The base was mainly used for advanced combat training of bomber & fighting units, prior to their deployment overseas during World War II. Eventually, Drew Field was inactivated and returned to the City of Tampa for civil use, where it was renamed as Drew Field Municipal Airport in 1946. This eventually became what we know today as Tampa International Airport, when Trans Canada Airlines inaugurated international flights to Tampa. Today's Tampa International Airport no longer uses any of the original Drew Field structures. In fact, what lies on past Drew Field is present-day is Raymond James Stadium, built in 1998 and the home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers & the NCAA's South Florida Bulls (USF) football team. Also located on past Drew Field today is Tampa's private jetport, which is where private flights, including Air Force 1, land in Tampa. Last but not least, present day Drew Park is located on the land as well, an area comprised of residents, the main campus of Hillsborough Community College, and many businesses.

Dale Mabry (1891-1922)

Captain Dale Mabry

Dale Mabry was an American aviator in World War I. A Tallahassee native, Mabry became a captain in the United States Army Air Service. Captain Mabry died in a crash in Norfolk, VA while piloting the Army airship "Roma". The Roma was the last hydrogen airship flown by the U.S. Military. The crash of the Roma was marked as the greatest disaster in American aeronautics history at the time. Captain Mabry was survived by a brother, G.E. Mabry, of Tampa, FL. Captain Dale Mabry is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

WWI Service Card

Tampa Morning Tribute 2/22/22. Photo Credit:

Roma Airship over Norfolk, VA 1922

The Roma Airship burned for over 5 hours.

Dale Mabry

World War II Postcard from Drew Field

January 5th 1948 aerial photo of Drew Field in Tampa, FL Drew Field in 1948, still showing its World War II military configuration.

1943 Drew Airfield Weekly Paper Photo Credit: TampaPix

Base buildings and grounds, including covered walkways, at Drew Field, May 1946 Photo Credit: TampaPix

Tampa International Airport, 1952

Photos of Dale Mabry Highway, dating back to 1952.

Photo credits:

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Winton Wilks
Winton Wilks
May 21, 2021

What was Dale Mabry called before it was named in Dale's honor?

Anthony Fernandez
Anthony Fernandez
Aug 24, 2021
Replying to

It was a dirt road connecting MacDill AFB and Drew Field.

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