David W. Garrett was born in Daphne, Ala., in November 1934. He attended Robertsdale High School and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1957. Upon graduation he reported to the Naval Officer Candidate School, Newport, Rhode Island, and was commissioned an Ensign in the same year.
Garrett remained in the Navy for 12 years where he served on several ships including the 6th Fleet flagship, a guided missile cruiser, and was assigned as the public affairs officer for the Bureau of Naval Personnel for one tour of duty. Also during this period, he attended Boston University and received a master's degree in public communications.
Garrett resigned his commission as a lieutenant commander in 1969 as executive officer of the USS Passumpsic after two Vietnam supply missions, for which he was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal, and joined NASA Headquarters the same year.
His first NASA assignment was speech writer for the head of Manned Space Flight. Then in 1970, he joined the Headquarters public affairs staff where he was the assistant public affairs officer in the Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology. During this stint, he also participated in the news operations of the Apollo 14 and 16 missions at NASA's Kennedy and Johnson Space Centers. His assignment for the Apollo 15 mission was the recovery ship in the Pacific Ocean.
In 1972, Garrett was assigned to Manned Space Flight public affairs where he produced the Apollo 17 press kit and worked the mission at Kennedy and Johnson. From 1973 to 1975, he supported press operations for the three Skylab missions and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project at both centers. Named the public affairs officer for the Office of Space Flight in 1976, he began planning news operations for the development of NASA's new manned vehicle, the Space Shuttle Program. In 1977, Garrett directed press operations for the shuttle approach and landing tests at the Dryden Flight Research Center in California where the orbiter Enterprise was flown several times from atop a Boeing 747. During this period, he also manned the press center at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the first Viking Mars landing mission. In the late seventies, Garrett planned and participated in a nationwide tour of the Enterprise atop the 747 following launch pad fit-checks at Kennedy.
He was presented the 1978 Aviation/Space Writers Association Public Information Officer Award for Outstanding Professionalism in the dissemination of public information for NASA.
The next several years were devoted to keeping the public informed of space shuttle development and the approaching first flight in April 1981. He was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal following the first flight of the shuttle. As Spaceflight Public Affairs Officer, Garrett was responsible for the overall planning and execution of press operations for the first 12 shuttle missions and actively participated in the news operations at Headquarters, Kennedy, Johnson, Dryden and the only shuttle landing at White Sands, New Mexico, in March 1982. He was appointed NASA news chief in 1984.
As the news chief, Garrett became responsible for the news operations for all NASA programs and activities, manned flight, planetary missions, aeronautics, budget briefings, etc. He remained in this position until his retirement in 1994 at the age of 59.