Jet Propulsion Laboratory (U.S.). Office of the Director.

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The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) underwent an administrative reorganization after it became a sole contractor in 1958 to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The matrix organization of Divisions and Sections that is still in use at the Lab today was largely instituted around this time, although many of the research and administrative divisions were already in existence, and remained unchanged. For administrative purposes, the Office of the Director was made part of Division 10.

William Hayward Pickering, the Lab Director in 1958, was born in Wellington, New Zealand, on December 24, 1910. He received his Doctorate in Physics in 1936 from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). After graduation, he joined the Caltech faculty, becoming a full professor of electrical engineering in 1946. Pickering joined JPL in 1944, on the basis of his experience in the design and use of telemetering devices. He was named chief of the Remote Control Section at JPL. Beginning in 1949, Pickering headed the Corporal and Sergeant missile programs, and in September 1954 he succeeded Louis Dunn as Laboratory Director.

In December 1958 JPL was transferred to NASA and a month later was assigned the responsibility for the robotic exploration of the Moon and planets. Under Pickering's direction, JPL supervised the Ranger missions returning the first close-up, high-resolution pictures of the lunar surface; he also supervised the Surveyor soft-landers on the Moon; the Mariner missions to Mars and Venus; and the first gravity assist mission to Mercury, via Venus. JPL also designed the Viking Orbiters to Mars and designed and built the Voyager spacecraft for their mission to the outer planets. Pickering retired from JPL in 1976.

Bruce C. Murray, Pickering's successor at JPL, was born November 30, 1931, in New York City. He earned a doctorate in Geology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955, and served as a geologist for Standard Oil from 1955-58. After serving as a Geophysicist for the U.S. Air Force, Murray joined the Caltech faculty as a Research Fellow of Planetary Science and Geology in 1960. Murray became a full Professor of Planetary Science and Geology at Caltech in 1969. Dr. Murray was a member of the Mars Television Teams on Mariners 4, 6, 7 and 9, and was the Television Team leader for the Mariner 10 flyby of Venus and Mercury. He was named Director of JPL on June 23, 1975, officially succeeding William H. Pickering on April 1, 1976.

During his administration at JPL, the Voyager spacecraft were launched and reached Jupiter and Saturn, Seasat was launched, and the Galileo and Magellan programs were approved by Congress. Murray was an advocate of several ambitious planetary missions, called "Purple Pigeons." These missions included a Jupiter Orbiter Probe, a Venus Orbital Imaging Radar, a Mars rover mission, a Lunar Polar Orbiter, a Comet Halley rendezvous and an interstellar probe. Most of these missions were ultimately cancelled due to lack of funding or support. Beginning in the mid-1970s, programs at JPL were increasingly concentrated in energy issues and defense.

Dr. Murray resigned as Lab Director in June 1982. He has remained active in space research. In 1979 he was a co-founder of The Planetary Society, and he became the Society's President on the death of Carl Sagan in 1997. He was a member of the scientific teams of the Russian Phobos '88 mission, the Russian Mars 96 and the U.S. Mars Global Surveyor missions, and the U.S. New Millennium Mars Microprobe Team. He has published over 120 scientific papers and authored or co-authored six books.

Bruce Murray was succeeded as Laboratory Director by General Lew Allen, Jr. Allen was born September 30, 1925, in Miami, FL, and grew up in Gainesville, TX. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1946 with a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Force. Allen earned a master of science degree in nuclear physics in 1952, and a doctorate degree in physics from 1954, both from the University of Illinois.

Allen's 35-year Air Force career culminated in Allen serving as Air Force Chief of Staff from July 1978 to his retirement from the Air Force in June 1982. Allen had also served as Director of the National Security Agency from 1973 to 1977.

General Allen was named Director of JPL and a Vice President of Caltech in July 1982, the appointment being effective on October 15, 1982. He served as JPL Director until the end of December 1990, when Dr. Edward C. Stone succeeded him.

In February 1960 Brian O. Sparks was named JPL's first Deputy Director. The Deputy Director was the principal operating executive of the Lab and was responsible for assisting the Director in the internal and more immediate operational activities of the Laboratory. The Deputy Director directed all day-to-day activities of the Laboratory and supervised the activities of the Assistant Director for Business Administration, Program Directors, and Division Chiefs. The Office of the Deputy was given its own Division (Division 11) until 1967 after the dismissal of Alvin R. Luedecke, Sparks' successor. At this time, the Office of the Deputy Director was reduced in authority, and placed directly under the Laboratory Director in Division 10.

Brian O. Sparks was born in Los Angeles on May 7, 1911. He received master degrees in astrophysics in 1933 and aeronautical engineering in 1940 from Caltech. He served as general manager and acting director of the Space Missiles Division of Interstate Electronics Corporation and as chief aerodynamicist at Bell Aircraft Corporation. He also owned an aircraft parts company, and flew for six years as a commercial pilot on transatlantic routes. He had also served as general manager and chief engineer of the Aircraft Division of the Clary Corporation. He served as JPL Deputy Director from February 1960 to August 1964. After being replaced by Luedecke, Sparks served as Manager of the Facilities Office, later the Facilities and Fabrication Services Office, from 1964 to his retirement in January 1976.

Alvin Roubal Luedecke, Jr. was born at El Dorado, Texas in 1910. He graduated from Texas A and M in 1932 with a degree in chemical engineering and was commissioned a second lieutenant of Field Artillery in the Reserve Corps. He transferred to the Army Air Corps as a flight cadet in 1933.

Luedecke served in the U.S. Air Force for twenty-five years. During World War II, he served as Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Operations, Plans, Training and Intelligence in the India-Burma Theater. He retired from the Air Force as a Major General to accept an appointment as General Manager of the Atomic Energy Commission, where he served until his appointment as JPL Deputy Director, effective August 11, 1964. He resigned as Deputy Director in August 1967.

Luedecke was followed as Deputy Director by John E. Clark, who was born in Atchison, Kansas. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and commissioned Ensign in 1927. He received flight training and was assigned to the Navy's first aircraft carrier, USS Langley. During World War II, Clark served as a naval aviator. Following the war, Clark commanded the seaplane tender USS Currituck, and the aircraft carrier USS Wright. From 1947 to 1949, he was chief of the Air Objectives Section in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations. Clark was the Navy member on the staff of the Director of Guided Missiles in the Office of the Secretary of Defense during 1952 and 1953.

In 1954, he became commander of the Naval Air Missile Test Center at Point Mugu, California, and the following year he was named Director of Guided Missiles in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. In 1958, he was appointed deputy director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, Department of Defense. He served as commander of Carrier Division Sixteen from 1959 to 1961.

In 1961, he returned to Point Mugu, serving as commander of the Pacific Missile Range until September 1965. From September 1965 until his retirement from the Navy in September 1967, Admiral Clark served as commandant of the Twelfth Naval District, headquartered in San Francisco. He retired in September 1967 with the rank of Rear Admiral. Admiral Clark assumed his duties as JPL Deputy Director on February 19, 1968, serving until his retirement in July 1971. Charles H. Terhune followed Clark as Deputy Director.

Charles H. Terhune, Jr., was born in 1916 in Dayton, Ohio. He received an Aeronautical Engineering degree from Caltech in 1940. As an Army Air Corps pilot in 1939, he tested bullet-proof fuel tanks for aircraft, and was associated with development of the first jet aircraft for the Army Air Force in the early 1940s. During World War II, Terhune participated in combat missions from the Philippines and Okinawa. After World War II, he served various positions involving guided missile development in the Air Force. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1959.

General Terhune retired as a Lieutenant General in 1969. From 1969 to 1971, he was manager of administration at National Cash Register's Data Processing Division in San Diego. He was JPL Deputy Director, assuming his duties on July 19, 1971.

General Terhune served as Acting Lab Director for four months after the resignation of Lab Director Bruce Murray, until General Lew Allen assumed the position of Director on October 1, 1982. Terhune retired as Deputy Director of JPL in December 1983. He was awarded NASA's Distinguished Service Medal in 1982.

The Office of Business Administration (Division 13) was formed in October 1959 by changing the position of Laboratory Administrator, which Val Larsen had held since the 1940s, to that of Assistant Director for Business Administration. The position was responsible for the administrative functions of the Laboratory such as personnel, procurement, plant services and financial management. In December 1963, the title was changed to Assistant Laboratory Director for Administration, with somewhat reduced duties and responsibilities.

With the retirement of Val Larsen in October 1965, the position of Assistant Laboratory Director for Administration was eliminated. The organizations, functions, and personnel that reported to that office were reassigned to various offices. The Office of Personnel Administration and Supporting Services (Section 120) was established, which was assigned many of the responsibilities that the earlier office had assumed.

In 1966, Personnel Administration and Supporting Services was moved from Section 120, and given its own Division, 70. This move coincides with the disappearance of memoranda from this office in the collection. Apart from three memos dated 1968, the last memo issued by the Office was in 1966. Personnel Administration and Supporting Services moved back to Section 120 in 1972, and was eliminated after Larsen's successor, Walt Padgham, retired in September 1976.

Valdemar C. "Val" Larsen, Jr. joined JPL in August 1943 after a tour with the U.S. Army. He served as Laboratory Administrator from 1946 to 1959, and Assistant Director for Business Administration from 1959 to his retirement in 1965.

Walter H. Padgham was born in 1915. He joined JPL in December 1949 as Personnel and Safety Administrator. In 1952 he was named Manager of the Personnel and Technical Services Division. In 1965, he was named Manager of the Office of Personnel Administration and Supporting Services, and he became Assistant Laboratory Director for Personnel Administration and Supporting Services in April 1969. He retired from JPL in September 1976. Padgham received NASA's Exceptional Service Medal, which was bestowed by President Gerald Ford shortly after Padgham's retirement. Padgham died on April 30, 1992.

From the description of Office of the Director Interoffice memoranda Collection, 1958-1985. (Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives). WorldCat record id: 733100852

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Jet Propulsion Laboratory (U.S.). Office of the Director. Office of the Director Interoffice memoranda Collection, 1958-1985. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country
Mars probes
Ranger project :
Surveyor project :
Voyager project :
Mariner project

Corporate Body

Active 1958

Active 1985

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Ark ID: w6pk7mg8

SNAC ID: 61831329